The Final Chapter: How I Went to College and a Part of Me Never Came Back

Indelible. This is the word that knocked me out of contention as St. Raphael Grade School’s Spelling Bee Representative. I fudged it in the final round. I thought it had an -able suffix.

When I set out to write my mini-memoir of the first month of college, I did not think that the succession of events would surface in my mind’s eye so vividly or so poignantly. But here I am, removed from college for just as many years as I was enrolled. I am recognizing the cast of characters whose imprint is still etched quite indelibly on my heart, and who may have just captured that part of me that went to college four years ago and never came back.

Stark Realities

Needless to say, I survived the first month of college and have lived to write about it, sans book deal. I turned 18 in mid-September and I officially became an adult, liable for all kinds of unimaginable crimes for which I might be publicly identified. Adulthood was already solidifying itself, my naivete waning with each passing day of college life. The following realities, to name a few, were quickly becoming starkly apparent:

1.) People in college went out to house parties on school nights. Sometimes, these parties lasted until after midnight!
2.) Sometimes, college girls went to these parties and got drunk on the dancefloor and spilled beer on themselves and looked unattractive and didn’t appear to CARE!
3.) People in college had SEX – sometimes, with people they had just met!
4.) People in college lost things quite often. They lost their IDs by throwing them away when they dumped their dining hall trays on the rotating belt, they lost their keys at house parties when they were too drunk to find them or remember them before they stumbled back to their dorm, and they also lost their memory of meeting people, especially when it involved meeting me in class and then not remembering that they had met me previously when they saw me at a houseparty.

Despite the rude awakening that was this pervasiveness of irresponsibility, I somehow remained positive. I tried to laugh off the fact that I was always walking home by myself from parties where drunk boys would suddenly pause and poke my stomach to see if I would mind. I hung out with Steve a lot – whose room was a veritable looneybin – and occasionally ventured up to the hall 4B where the clock never seemed to tick because at 4pm or 4am, there was always a loud cacophony coming from every room and a rousing game of hall bowling beckoning passersby to come and join.

Flowers for moi?

The boy whom I had decided that I loved called me on my birthday and, since I didn’t leave my room for purposes other than to go to class or for meals, I was there when the phone rang. We talked for an hour about Bill Murray movies and other pressing matters. The next day, a delivery person came to my room in Baldwin Hall with a bouquet of flowers from the Amazon – they were huge. I wanted the delivery person to say that the bouquet was for my roommate because, even though I had watched enviously as my high school mates received tall stemmed roses from suitors every Valentine’s Day, and proceeded to carry them around to every class because “the box was just so big, it wouldn’t fit in my locker!,” suddenly, receiving flowers was really totally embarassing. NO ONE on our floor had received flowers yet, so my hallmates were all peeking in and asking who are they from??? I didn’t know what to say when the deliveryperson said that the flowers were for me. I didn’t know what to do when I found out the flowers were not from my dad. I called Big Pops and he said that I had to call the boy whom I had decided that I loved, because that was so thoughtful of him to send flowers. So I called the boy and I said thank you, thank you, thank you, and he said that he had to call my sister TP to check my dorm room number. Hercules himself had not gone to such great lengths, as far as I was concerned. My little sister was a doll but she could also be a total pill when she had information that you needed and could not find elsewhere. I subsequently stayed on the phone with the boy for another hour, deciding that I loved the boy even more than I had decided earlier, especially as he promoted my status on the floor from the girl whose clothes didn’t fit to the girl whose clothes didn’t fit who ALSO had a bouquet of flowers in her room.

A few weeks later my mother Big Red and TP visited for Family Weekend and they counted up all of the birthday cards I had taped to my closet door. Three were from the boy whom I had decided that I loved more, and two were from his best friends. I am sure my mother raised an eyebrow that could have also raised the roof, which is the way of an Irish mother in case you weren’t raised by the silent fury.

Fall Break

A few short weeks after that was Fall Break. I had plans to fly on an airplane for the first time without a parent to go see high school friends in New York City. I went home prior to my flight and the home of my girlhood appeared vastly different. The carpet was softer, the bathroom was more commodious, and my bedroom looked palacial. I had been institutionalized in just a couple of months, and was now profoundly aware of the luxury I had taken for granted for 18 years.

My first visit to NYC was monumental. I remember perching my camera with the autoflash on a pile of rocks in Central Park and taking a picture of me toppled on my friends. The frivolity reminded me that I was not the socially maladapted creature that college had convinced me that I had become. Rather, I was fun and had a penchant for breaking into fits of laughter and musical numbers on the sidwalks of SoHo. The trick would be transferring this same zeal to my life back at school.

The rest of the semester passed quite quickly. It was punctuated mid-way by my father picking me up for Thanksgiving Break and getting rear-ended in front of my dorm. He jumped out of the car with his legal tablet and proceeded to take down the names of eye-witnesses (who incidentally comprised the defensive line on the football team at Small Liberal Arts College). I was asked repeatedly that year by other eye witnesses if my father did indeed have “I SUE” as his license plate. This event was hailed as the second most exciting thing to happen in Pennsylvania since the Quakers founded the commonwealth.

The weekends were still lonely times, as many of my floormates were still evacuating campus for cozy weekends back home with their high school boyfriends (whom they would inevitably call their X-Men by second semester). Still, I was finding many excuses to get off campus myself. I even left my dorm room on week nights, too. Never to party but sometimes to study in academic buildings alone, only slightly plagued by fears of rapists and pillagers finding me unattended by a bodyguard.

HoliDaze
My first experience in surmounting final exams in college was exactly what it was meant to be for a freshman with no time management skills. I stayed up for three nights in a row, ate leftover icing from the Hall Council study break parties, typed craptacular papers on poorly-researched topics, and cried everytime I thought about TP and Baby Bro at home watching Christmas claymation specials. But I made it through and my roommate and I rejoiced for having survived our first semester and wished each other well on our holiday breaks.

I spent the holiday break under a proverbial mistletoe with the boy whom I decided that I loved, absolutely enamoured with him and every second I got to spend with him. It was clear that our relationship was maintaining a high frequency of flirtation, but I wondered where it was going and was it worth even questioning?

There was one day in which he and I and several of our other pals went sled-riding and I felt in myself something strange and eruptive the whole day when I looked at him. I felt as though some kind of fizzling candor was going to burst in my esophagus if I didn’t say something. And so. He dropped me off that late afternoon and I thought in my mind, “Say something. Self? You cannot NOT say something.” So I dragged my innertube up almost to the door and spun around and I am sure my eyes grew as big as a kewpie doll. I wanted to say, “Okay boy. I have been head over heels for you since you left me at Dairy Queen. In August. Since then, I have decided that I am pretty much interested in being your pen pal for the rest of my life. So how about you just say okay and promise that you’ll never look at another woman ever, ever again, and only write sweet letters to me with illustrations and underlined words that I have to look up in a dictionary.”

Instead I said, “So, [Boy], like, when you go back to school, you don’t have to feel obligated – like, I mean, like you don’t have to send me letters or anything.”

What followed was a pregnant pause. It was so pregnant, it could have given birth to with quints.

He then gave me a look that I have never seen EVER recaptured anywhere else, not in “The Wonder Years” when Winnie tells Kevin that people change; not in “Little Women” when Lawry tells Jo that she will find someone and she will love him tremendously, and he’ll be hanged; not even in my own life by any man that has loved me, or been perplexed by me, or even who has told me that I was being laid off for department downsizing. The look was a combination of confusion and panic, of deep deep care and absolute madness.

I wanted to clarify what I had said, only I didn’t know WHY I had said exactly the opposite of what I had wanted to say, and so he replied, with his finger touching my lips, “Now you be good.” And then he kissed me and I looked around and – WHAT?!? DID HE JUST QUOTE A MOVIE LINE? “Now you be good” – WHAT! I am still searching for why he would tell me to be good, now, and perhaps it is because he, too, said the opposite of what he wanted to say, which may have been, “I haven’t a stinking clue what you are talking about, young lady, because today we just went sledding, and tomorrow, who knows, maybe we will go sledding again!”

My Counsel

Someday, I will have a daughter, and I will not be able to prevent her from dating boys who will cause her to cut class or make her feel fat or break her heart. She will break my own heart by doing so, but I will have to let her, because that is what growing up is all about. What I will tell her, sternly, though, is about the hazards of telling someone not to feel obligated to do something. I will encourage her to make people feel obligated to take responsibility for themselves and their actions, and I will teach her the subtle difference between guilt and earnestness, between owing someone something and honoring someone with truth and respect.

I will tell her about how I once told a boy not to feel obligated to write me, even though I would have pulled out my fingernails right from the nailbeds if he had asked me to do so. I will tell her how he went back to school and found a girlfriend and didn’t tell me about her, while simultaneously asking me if I would be coming to visit him in the spring, and that it would be fine to stay with him. (OF COURSE THIS WAS OKAY, THOUGH, SINCE I HAD TOLD HIM NOT TO FEEL OBLIGATED!!!) I will tell her that I eventually received a very pointed letter from him, detailing certain feelings he harbored for me, but that I was not in the right place to effect those feelings, and that he was presently preoccupied in channeling other feelings to someone else. I will tell her that I never never cried about that letter, that I only got angry, and very bitter, and that I moped for the entire second semester of freshman year. I will tell her that I got sick to my stomach everytime I saw that boy for the next two years. I will tell her that it got much worse before it got better, but then it did. Get better, the pain, that is. And eventually, after a lot of good counsel, I realized the Almighty Importance of Fit and Time in a relationship. That the fit might be right, but the time might be awful and therefore the relationship will never be able to launch. And likewise, the timing of meeting and falling for someone might be excellent, but sometimes the people involved don’t quite fit, and it is wise not to waste time trying to configure a fit that’s just not fulfilling and, in fact, quite uncomfortable for both parts involved.

Just as I do not regret anything that happened with the first boy whom I really loved, I do not regret anything that happened that freshman year. It was necessary to hurt and learn and hurt and learn because, much like gold held up to the hottest part of the flame, refinement sometimes comes through the most heated of trials.

The next fall, when I went back to school, I had a much brighter perspective. I would be an RA on a floor with lavendar walls. My room was big and beautiful with two closets. It was on the second floor, but my friend Steve once climbed in my window, because he could. I met some great new people, some were my residents on my floor who were constantly taping Cracker Jack prizes to my door, and others were RAs, too. One RA, John wore fantastic shoes – clogs and red Converse – and had a kind and therapeutic voice. The next summer, I told him it was NOT okay to tell me about other women that he liked. Five summers later, I said “I Do!” to that boy, and then I turned with tears pooling up in my eyes, and listened to my best gurlfriend and the boy whom I had first loved sing the most beautiful wedding song ever rendered, in front of a few other VIPs in our lives. I thought myself quite lucky to be so engulfed by love, and a tear streamed down my face.

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How I Went to College and a Part of Me Never Came Back pt. 3

Have you ever met someone who obviously cared about learning your name but you responded by being as interested in him as gum on the bottom of your shoe? I officially met Steve at a greeting meeting for our dorm which occured in the chapel which is ironic considering the range of irreverent activities that our dorm would engage in that year. I had seen Steve before that week as his head was covered in a briar patch of brown curls which bounced when he walked. I slid into a pew in the chapel with a few of my other hallmates. Steve was in the pew ahead of us and was leaning back, shaking hands with my hallmates and interestedly learning their names. He impressed me as someone who had not realized that high school was over and hence it was not necessary to meet as many people as possible in order to earn their student council vote. I introduced myself and he took note of my name and I noticed how he said it back to me – “Kendra” – but not in the tone used by everyone else at Liberal Arts College on a Hill when repeating back to you what you just said. “Kendra.” But I assumed that I was only a fleeting name in his mental rolodex, soon to be
forgotten.

I was wrong.


Greeting Meeting

The greeting meeting for our dorm in the chapel was memorable. Memorable in that all of the RAs introduced themselves and blah blah they were majoring in Blippity Blah and they hoped we’d get involved in Bloopity Boppity Boo. Finally, the dorm director who was a scrawnier version of Pee Wee Herman in a polo stood up to the mic and said, “Many students come…” and then made the near-fatal mistake of pausing. Every last male resident of Baldwin Hall guffawed. I thought that the comic value of this incident would fade soon after the meeting ended. And then when it didn’t, I thought that after the week of Orientation, people would forget the building director’s faux pas and invent new dorm humor. Instead, many students came to repeat Many Students Come at mealtimes, on dry-erase boards for the rest of the year. Which explains why I still remember this hallmark quote from our building director who did not return to Liberal Arts College on a Hill the next year. He off and joined the circus. No, really, he went to work in residence life for Barnum & Bailey. I do believe that Baldwin Hall prepared him well.

The Picnic

The few days before classes began were a little bit more enjoyable. One evening, I learned that several of my other dormies were headed to the Campus Ministry picnic, and when I consider that group, it makes me smile. One included Big Red, a red-headed girl from a farm country in northern Pennsylvania. The group started up the hill and Big Red exclaimed “F@#% this s&!^, I’m not walking, I’m going to get my car” on her way to the Campus Ministry picnic. Two of the other sojourners, Eric and Celia, became two of my very best friends senior year and a year after graduation, promised to be each other’s best friends for life in holy matrimony. The other travelers were Topher who was going for the free food, and Colleen who was nuts.

There was a refreshing tone of frivolity at the picnic. Of course there was another beat icebreaker or two, but there were upperclassmen there who were not totally jaded by self-introductions and they made it fun. Each organization gave a skit and one included a portrayal of “backyard banchees” which made me miss the boy whom I had decided that I loved because he was always carousing around like a backyard banchee, skits notwithstanding. I know that I saw Steve at the picnic but was probably chalking him up as another person there for the free food.

Finally, Classes

The weekend before classes began is a blur to me. I am sure that I had registered for some classes and bought books with the cash moneys that my Nana had given me which didn’t seem right since she was living off of Social Security and had not bought a new pair of anything for herself since pre-Watergate. But she had insisted so I was keen for new books bought from the bookstore since, again, I did not know how to use the internet per se and was ignorant of the vast, cost-effective possiblities of buying books online. I am also quite certain that I watched “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” on McKinley’s lawn for the first time with a girl who spelled her name KIMmy. I admired her for this, and for wearing lacy slips on the outside.

Wake-up Call

My roommate woke up for classes at 6:30am. I had thought that such a wake-up call – when her first class was at 8am – was necessary for someone who was going to milk the cow and fetch eggs for making breakfast from scratch. This was because, for the last four years, I had rolled from the rumpled covers of my bed ito the plush seats of my friend Micky’s Oldsmobile each morning on our way to the overprivileged all-girls school where the uniform consisted of a navy skirt (I purchased one and wore it for four years and washed it at least twice) and a white shirt with an elastic waistband which meant that we didn’t even have to worry about tucking it in. I had never in four years of high school gotten up to put on make-up or comb my hair or offer a casual thought about my appearance other than whether or not I had taken off my pajama pants by the time I arrived to my first class. I may have lost sleep over many things in high school, but it was never because I had woken too early to apply my eyeliner straight. My roommate, on the other hand, was up at 6:30am everyday, while I rolled over and waited for my beacon at 9:45a, just in time to eat an untoasted pop tart before my 10a class.

The Drill

My classes first semester were all very base-level intro classes that did not give me much trouble, other than Calc which awarded me my first ever “C” on a report card. I studied with the quintessential college boy whom I had encountered on day one. He was so HOT. Oftentimes, we would meet before class to go over homework when algorithms were so hard and he was SO hot. One evening, we had planned to meet in the main lounge of Baldwin and I had arrived to the table early. Steve was sitting on a window ledge in the lounge and said “Hi, Kendra.” I said hello and didn’t make pleasantries, because was I even sure that his name was Steve? He asked me where I lived in Baldwin and what I was studying and I looked at him and thought he was very cute but that he clearly had an agenda.

Despite the connections with people in my classes, I was still very lost and very lonely. I still starred as Kendra the Deer Caught in the Headlights in the dining hall at every mealtime. Additionally, I had gained some weight before college which was good since I no longer starred as Kendra the Skeletal Zombie of high school, but unfortunate since none of my fall clothes fit. And being friendless with flood pants in the dining hall was not the way to spend freshman year, I had decided.

That week I also I received a beautiful, thoughtful, and totally ambiguous letter from the boy whom I had decided that I loved. The day I received the letter, I read it 74 times. He had used the word “pulchritudinous” and I knew the meaning of it, but knew not why he had used it in reference to me. The letter? It did not come as much comfort to me. It became clear to me that the boy whom I had decided that I loved was thousands of football fields away from me, both geographically and in smarts. I took several days to respond as it may have been necessary to consult a thesaurus.

Praises

The one stability during that first month was Friday night. I attended a praise and worship night hosted by the Christian student association on campus. It was warm and lively, and reminded me of the gatherings that our Catholic youth minister had discouraged us from attending in high school. For me, it was the perfect place to be a lost freshman and to realize that God lived even on a campus where the stairwells smelled of stale beer and the walls were smeared with barbecue sauce. Steve also attended the nights and said hi to me. He was a social butterfly. It finally occurred to me that he was not running for student council but rather strategically successful in meeting people by learning their names. It was at this point that I ceased being suspicious of him and began to take notes from him. Sometimes, he had soccer games on Friday nights and I would miss seeing him. One night, I decided to find his room in Baldwin Hall.

It Happened One Night

I knocked on his door and started to walk away. He came to the door in his boxers and laughed. He asked me what I was doing in the dorm on a Saturday night. I replied, “Because I have no friends and the only conversations I have with people here are about alogrithms and whether I can sit with them at lunch or not. Because I am a recovering Catholic schoolgirl and wore a uniform for twelve years and now have no pants that don’t give me a wedgie when I walk. Because I am afraid of drinking and getting ruffied and getting raped and even beyond all that, I am afraid of boys, particularly ones that will come to the door in boxers and who leave me with nothing to say.”

Actually I started to blush and stammered, “Because I was coming through the horseshoe outside and walked through your hall to get to my hall.”

“Let me put some clothes on and then you can come in,” he said.

I entered his room which was dark except for a lava lamp and the oscillating lights on his stereo system which I now know was playing Jars of Clay. I sat on the edge of his bed and he lay on his back and he smiled when I talked and his voice was gravelly when he asked me a question and then I yawned and he said it was the cutest thing he had ever seen, like a puppy. He said I should put my head on his pillow because I looked uncomfortable and he was less right about my discomfort and more right about how I had wanted to put my head on his flannel pillow which looked yummy enough to mash my whole face into without any scruples.

He patted my back? Or was it my head? And we found out that both of our parents had gotten divorced while we were in high school and how we both had had a tough go with our moms. We both had younger sisters who told us how it was, and we liked the movie “Good Will Hunting.” I told him a little bit about the boy whom I had decided that I loved, and how I couldn’t really describe him in so many words, only that he was wonderful and that I missed having friends who didn’t judge you when you wanted to be ridiculous. We talked about how we couldn’t understand how people were so amoral in college sometimes, and how we both really wanted to grow to know Christ more, and how life was very confusing but very rewarding at times.

His roommate, who turned out to be Eric of the Campus Ministry Picnic, came in but then left again, maybe thinking that we were hooking up, but really we were just talking about Eric and how his Princess Bride poster totally made him a babe-magnet.

Many CDs rotated in his stereo that night and Steve said it was okay if I passed out in his bed but I was not that kind of girl. I had finally made a friend at college. For weeks I had been trying to make myself invisible and now, having made a friend, something was different. I felt as though I had placed myself on the map, that I had a right to be here, and a right to enjoy myself, definitely in my dorm now that I had met someone who was awesome and relatable, and maybe, maybe I would eventually enjoy myself here at Liberal Arts College on a Hill. Maybe I would enjoy some experiences rather than dreading them, now that I had a friend. Maybe I would even make it, even in the dining halls.

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CALLIGRAPHY

It is my pleasure to share this hobby with others whose special events and gifts merit that extra special touch.

I appreciate your inquiries regarding my services. Production typically takes 10-14 days time.

While some prices have risen (largely due to a rising cost of ink), some pricing is negotiable depending on the size of your job. The following information is a good starting point.

Wedding Invitations:

$2 per set (Outer/Inner envelope) or $1.50 per Outer envelope

Placecards/Escort Cards:

$.50/card

Table Tents

$10 one-time set-up fee (to prepare measurements), $2.50/sign

Poems or Verses:

$10 one-time set-up fee, $2 per line or $3 per line for colors.

Resources:
* I use Sheaffer Products. You can view the ink color selection if you are interested in using colored ink for your job.

* If you have questions about addressee etiquette, this website is a good reference.

It would be a pleasure to speak with you further about your project! Please contact me by e-mail at kendratheadverb at gmail dot com. Please be sure to include the number of envelopes (both outer and inner) that you will need lettered, as well as the color of ink you would like to use and the date by which you will need to mail them.

Below, please find a few of the styles that I have been mastering.

Placecards/Table Tents:

placecards

dport

“The Amy”

amy

“The Anastasia”
anastasia one
anastasia two

“The Laura”

laura one

laura two

“The Olivia”shows larger and smaller script depending on envelope size

olivia

Poems
poem


*Vendor Spotlight*

Good, personal service is something by which I pride myself. I praise God for the gift of good handwriting, but also for the lessons of client service that I have learned from the following wedding vendors:

Maura of The Paper Guppy designs beautiful, unique wedding invitations. Her artistic talents are matched by her professional and efficient service. She is based in Denver, but works with clients just about anywhere.

Steven Mastroianni is one of the most talented and thoughtful wedding photographers that I have encountered. His specialty is black and white film photography and he will change your mind if you thought digital color was the only way to shoot. He is based in Cleveland, OH.

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