the entrance to campus as you follow Middle Path
I had forgotten how good it feels to wake up in a beautiful place. This weekend I visited my alma mater, Kenyon College, and received a warm reminder. Walking out of the hotel and onto the tree-lined path that stretches through campus, I felt completely at home. The crocuses had started to bloom a week before, Amish women were selling quilts and baskets, and Adirondack chairs just begged to be sat on. The company of friends and sisters sweetened every cup of coffee.
I always have mixed feelings about returning to such a beloved past home. During my first year as an alumna, I couldn’t quite believe that the community continued to exist without me. This place had been my world for four years, but my departure wasn’t even a blip on its radar. That year, I wanted to be missed. I hadn’t quite found a home in my new life, and Kenyon was the only place I knew I fit in. Even as I recognized the silly selfishness of that feeling, realizing that I was just another transient college student hurt.
brunch bouquets + the history of women at the college + riot grrrl movement
The college community is a strange place where, as much as things change, they seem to stay the same. I realized this year that the community moves on because it has to. Even with the coming and going of members every year, its values and character do not change. New people take up the torch, invest their love and laughter for four or more years, and carry this place in their hearts when they leave.
On Day 3 of my visit, nostalgia finally knocked down the tentative barrier I’d put up between myself and my old home. Surrounded by generations of students, staff, faculty, and community members at the annual Women of Gambier Brunch, I felt at once incredibly at home and incredibly awash. Hosted by the women’s center where I lived and worked in college, this event brought together so many things I love about the Kenyon experience: being part of traditions, hearing life stories, celebrating with food, belonging in a nurturing space open to all members of the community.
Nothing could have prepared me for how I felt when I saw my sisters. It was our sorority’s alumnae weekend, so I reunited with dear old friends and met the girls who are continuing our tradition on campus. Even though we keep in touch, being together in person felt like we actually caught up. These women watched me grow up and grew up with me. We share absurd inside jokes, sarcastic expressions that translate to love, and an unconditional connection no matter where life takes us.
This weekend was the sum of fulfilling and heart-wrenching. It was a reminder of the relationships that have sustained and supported me through a road that is all kinds of bumpy. It was an embrace I sorely needed. Most of all, it was an affirmation that this place will always exist, in equal parts exactly as I remember and completely different. It was coming home.