My time at Mary Washington College was not a happy one. Let me count the reasons:
- I wasn't ready to go away to college, especially not 3,000+ miles from home.
- Three of us first-year students were crammed into a room built for two students.
- One of those roommates was the least hygenic and most asocial person with whom I've had to share space.
- Race issues. Good god, were there ever unacknowledged race issues. I had wanted to be in an entirely different environment than my inner-city high school in Southern California. I wanted a college with a smaller student body and a lovely landscape. Mary Washington's brick buildings, deciduous trees, and rolling landscape fit the bill, and Fredericksburg seemed charming when I breezed through it as a prospective student. Instead of idyllic college life, however, I found myself in the middle of a lot of evangelical students and a bunch of white people who had clearly never thought at all about race. WTF was I thinking, attending college in the South?
- The food and housing sucked. Big time. As in, had I been litigious, I totally could have sued.
My time at Mary Washington was marked, fortunately, by my discovery of poetry, and particularly American poetry. I read a lot of of the Southern poets, wrote a paper on Allen Tate's Ode to the Confederate Dead. Despite the poetry course, the curriculum that semester failed to challenge me, and so I spent a lot of my time wandering Fredericksburg, meditating on the worn stone slave auction block on a street corner, the Civil War and Revolutionary-era cemeteries, the Sunken Road that played such a pivotal role in the first battle of Fredericksburg. I rode my bike along the old VEPCO canals, trying to avoid what my geology professor dubbed the "sociopaths" who hung out under the overpasses. Once my roommate and I were pursued, on bike, by one such sociopath, almost right to the door of the college police station. (To this day, I have far more fear of strange white men than of young men of color. I'll cross the street to avoid a redneck-looking fellow, but not someone who appears to be a gang member.) It was a dark time in my life, and I wrote a lot of poetry, which was good for me.
And despite the darkness, I still feel a strange nostalgia for that time. I'm realizing it has less to do with Mary Washington and more to do with youthful energy (physical and intellectual) and the vast amounts of time--time alone and unsupervised by anyone--that I now largely lack in my life because of my responsibilities as a mother, wife, and employee.
Don't get me wrong--I love Mr. Trillwing and Lucas and wouldn't trade them for a lifetime of intellectual exploration, creative production, and personal reflection--but I miss that vigor, overshadowed though it was by various darknesses. And my post from yesterday on middle landscapes is a reflection of that, of finding a balance in my life so that I don't totally subsume my solitary, creative and intellectual time into my new life as a mother and full-time worker.