mother of my soul
June 2, 2004 02:49 PM

O hallowed halls and vine-draped walls
The proudliest sight there is
When grey and sere our hair hath turned
We shall still revere the lessons learned
In our days at dear old Shiz
Our days at dear old

I don't remember when I last measured the progress of years by semesters.

[There's a character, a caricature of feminism, in the movie Legally Blonde who complains at the name "semester" saying it's a cognate of "semen". Which is absurd. Semester is clearly related to "mensis" (month) and therefore to menstruation in a way. Is she supposed to be a fake, stupid, radical feminist? Or a real, representative one? Is this making fun of feminism, which annoys me? Or making fun of people who don't know their etymology, which I support? In the way that niggling pop culture things can burrow under your fingernails, this comes up every time I say the word. I can't not say it.]

But I remember the feeling of a year divided into four discrete boxes. Fall. Winter break. Spring. Summer break. And before that, two boxes: school, and not school. This is my primary recollection of school, the yearly clock it created.

I've been back to Williamsburg a few times in the past year (where a year is the 12 months up to today, no boxes in sight). I don't recall why, exactly. It may have been for sandwiches. We go to the bookstore when we pass by; there are theatre books, academic ones, you can't get elsewhere. I like to imagine older folk buying two matching wooden W&M crested rocking chairs and sitting out on their porch to remember the class of 1954 or something.

I don't have sentimental thoughts about my college other than that. Sure, I gave it a nickname years ago. And I have the occasional lingering sentiment about being in college. But I never had those "woot, there's my school" thoughts.

Until now.

This year, Jon Stewart spoke at graduation. Cool. What was impressive is this - despite a loud minority of parents spurring some sort of outcry over his "inappropriateness", he was still there. Actually, he filled the hall, a relatively rare occurrence reserved for the likes of Nirvana (back in the day). He was received graciously by the subtly but ragingly liberal college leadership, and loudly and enthusiastically by the students and their oodles of friends.

Thing is, it's kind of a conservative school. Or at least, a traditional one.

Tradition doesn't always mean embracing the How Things Are. Apparently.

I was the sort of nerd who actually knew what dead language words meant long before I got my calligraphed Latin diploma (with handy mini translation). My school taught me no lessons in that. But the environment, traditional though it may have been, was as effective at growing a liberal heart as a dixie cup and a damp sponge are at germinating little corn sprouts. There was a lot of conversation.

So. I went in a kid and came out a citizen, in many ways. In many ways, my alma mater is actually my soul's mother.

Bit of a surprise, that.

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