Last week the students came flooding back to State College. Within 48 hours our town doubles in size, swelling with cars and pedestrians its streets are not designed for. Plastic rolling storage carts, cheap beige rugs, cork boards and junk food are purchased. Bright eyed frat boy wannabes whiz through Wal-Mart with their big-haired mamas electric with the excitement of their first year away at school. As I coast down the main road leading into town, a maze of navy blue and white t-shirts, I can’t help but recall how excited I was 11 years ago to be doing the exact same thing. The painted white loft bed I just had to have. The cheerful, bubbly, beautifully bouncy-curled roommate I quickly adored. The late nights drinking coffee in the study lounge while pretending to be reading up on Biological Science (damn those general science requirements). The excitement of being chosen by my sorority and the nervousness that quickly followed. The boy I was sure was “the one” and all the joy and tears that went along with that whole charade.
My freshman year is a blur of skipped classes, lunches in the HUB, the Daily Collegian crossword puzzles, pomping our Homecoming float with endless tissue paper squares and gallons of Elmer’s. Cute boys, dated functions, hay rides, cheap beer, heavy textbooks, cafeteria food and laughter. Lots of laughter! Late night laughter. Fearful laughter. Ignorant laughter. Lots of tears always followed by more laughter. My roommates. My sorority sisters. Eventually becoming some of my bridesmaids, were always full of laughter.
As I sit in my car, deciding to brave the wave of 18-year-old youngsters in overpriced Hollister clothing I think about how in 18 years I will be following my son around Wal-Mart. Macaroni and cheese, shower shoes, plastic crates that will serve as book shelves and coffee tables and his future all fitting neatly into a shiny metal cart.