On quiet summer mornings when the sun hits the dew just right, when the air is fresh and sweet, and when a stillness pervades campus, the Notre Dame spread before me is mine.
There are no student joggers to remind me of my age on these mornings. No colleagues in the parking lot to jolt me into working-world reality. No grinding of cement trucks to bellow an impending campus transformation. Just a blank and familiar canvas to draw me back into a Notre Dame of my past life, of cool Monday mornings, warmed by tea in a thermos on the trek to class.
As the trees gently rustle in the wind, I’m reminded of 2 a.m. walks home from the library. “The trees are shaking off a day’s burdens,” I’d whisper to myself. “Maybe you should do the same.” “Not a bad idea,” Mary would call from her moonlit perch atop the Dome. She’s been mute for many months now.
Caught in a fit of nostalgia, I catch myself wondering if I hustled to South Dining Hall, would my friends be there waiting? They’d probably be stuck in the omelet line. We’d gather right-left and, as with every weekend, they’d offer me a bite of their eggs. I’d wrinkle my nose at the smell and shake my head. We’d stick around long enough to nab a muffin on the way out before hustling to begin a day of studying. As we walked, we’d see the rest of campus perking up. There would be pajama-clad boys rubbing sleep out of their eyes as they stumble towards a cup of coffee, and a girl covering her too-small dress with a too-large sweatshirt, heels in hand from the night before. We’d giggle quietly.
I swear I can feel the sand of the volleyball courts tucked between my toes, even as they sit nestled in loafers. I can feel my arm itching to extend for a spike, even though we all know I’m too short to reach the top of the net. I hear the boys guffaw, ‘why do you keep trying to do that?’
I’m tempted to walk across campus, down a mildew-smelling hallway, and into a corner room. The boys from the dorm-next-door would be shouting their familiar and rowdy chorus of “you cheat!” “No, I’m not!” over the ding beep ding of a video game. I’d smile at this brohood, knowing how it will change in the years to come.
I’m snapped back to reality when a landscape truck drives up and obstructs my view, parking himself in front of my memories. No matter. The Notre Dame of those days fades as the sun finishes rising. It’s best not to sit and wonder if or when she’ll come back.
Or maybe she never left. Maybe I left that Notre Dame. As I stroll into work, I watch the freshmen drive up to campus for the first time. I see them peering, eyes wide with wonder, from cars crammed with luggage, and realize that that Notre Dame is just beginning for them. Groggy mornings. Lofted beds. Shower caddies. First dances. Irish jigs. Final exams. Dorm masses. Spring breaks. Study abroad. Warm friendships. And then, graduation.
All I left behind is what waits in store for them. What fun.
Tara Hunt is an associate editor of this magazine. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.