Thursday, February 10

let's make like a tree...

.. and get sappy.

Lame, I know-- but something about this time of year turns me into a sappy, sentimental pile of mush. Perhaps it's the upcoming celebration of Saint Valentine, maybe it's the fact that College Night is right around the corner, possibly it's that things have finally slowed down after the hustle and bustle of October-December to actually allow time for my mind to wander and reminisce. I believe it's a combination of all of these.. so time for a little brain dump. Not eloquent, I realize, but it pretty accurately describes what you have to look forward to in this post. (Edit: after finishing this novella-- be warned! It is far too wordy, lasts forever, and you might need tissues.  I did.)

reuniting with my purple family
No, my actual family members have not contracted some crazy west-Nilian virus that turns their skin purple.  What I'm talking about here is my alma mater's homecoming tradition-- the University of Montevallo's College Night.  For those who do not know or understand College Night read: this article at, this listing in the American Folklife Center, or go straight to the source at the UM College Night page.

Palmer Hall, home to College Night for the past 92 years
For me, going back to College Night is non-negotiable.  I've been every year since graduation and consider myself to be a Proud Vintage (Vintage Purples are those who have graduated or "passed and been forgotten".)  This will be the Man's third year returning, and though he still doesn't understand the mania that ensues-- he has started to join in on the rivalry.  I'm going to pretend his disdain for the Gold Side comes from his support of me and the other Purples, but truly I think he's just tired of having to sit through their "shows".   

My co-leader and I as Vintages.
We were kinda unstoppable, if I do say so myself.
I love College Night and the Purple Side.  When they say that the Purple Side is a family, we aren't joking.  Many of my closest friends are Purples and I look forward to seeing everyone each year.  For many of us, College Night is the only time we have the opportunity to visit.  From the moment we arrive on campus, it is a flurry of "oh-my-god-how-are-you's!" and "PV whooo's!" and hugs and talking over each other and excited chatter from everyone who can't wait to see everyone else.  It's madness, and I love it.

As a former Leader, I have a soft spot for what the leaders go through.  I was lucky to have a chance to speak with the current male leader and encouraged him to take a minute after the show last night to step outside the steps of Palmer and savor the moment, take a deep breath, and take it all in. This was something I did during my leader year, and I have never forgotten that feeling.  This is what he wrote on my facebook wall:
"Just want you to know, that I did that thing that you said... you know, walked outside with my co-leader, [...]after our opening night and looked at the campus... You were right. One of the most beautiful moments of my life that I will always remember. The sky was dark, and the campus was all lit up, and it was SNOWING! Huge snowflakes falling from the sky, and sticking to the grass, and a whole bunch of people were out in the main quad jumping and screaming and having a blast in the snow. I just wanted you to know :) PV"
I can't wait to be back on that beautiful campus.  I can't wait to see my dear friends.  I can NOT wait to circle up with my Side on Saturday night in the hallowed Palmer Hall and experience the electricity in the air and the power of the Purple Side.

 missing "mildly retarded"
 It's been about two years since a former professor, and dear friend of mine passed away after his battle with cancer.  John Franklin (lovingly known as JOF) had such a dynamic spirit and was a huge part of my college experience.  It's weird looking back to see how much influence he had on me, and how much he grew to mean to me over the years. 

John and his "hand dipped cones"
from Dairy Queen. 
I was honored to be able to visit him when he was sick, and even more humbled by his family's acceptance of me in their time of grief. We planned a memorial for him at Montevallo and I am honestly amazed to this day that I even survived that weekend.  I am so grateful for my friends, my Montevallo family, who were there.  We all were mourning, and the outpouring of love from everyone there was so powerful, so honest, so real -- it directly reflected the impact that John had on everyone around him.

I don't know what has prompted his being on my mind so much lately-- perhaps it's because I have settled down and finally have time to craft again, or maybe it's just that I am finally able to look back and remember without being overwhelmed by the memories of his last few months.

There are moments when I wish we could just sit down over dinner and catch up. I wish he could see the house (and make fun of my decorating choices) and meet the Man (and probably make fun of us) and be around to see how many of his students and friends from his time at Montevallo have flourished and grown to find success, who have direction, who have finally found their passion and and making their dreams happen. 

He used to joke that most of his students were "mildly retarded" and would never amount to much-- but I think everyone who knew John, and who was affectionately called "mildly retarded",  knew that he was proud of them.  As I return to Campus this weekend, I'll be thinking of him-- while cheering for the Purples in Palmer watching the cheerleaders in uniforms he helped us design, while watching the Gold Show and hearing his biting critique just like our last College Night together, while drinking a glass of sweet tea with the one and only Miss Pam, and while being surrounded by the Montevallo family that love and miss him to this day.

love and all things considered
When I left my Montevallo home after graduation, I moved back to Auburn to be with my family.  I initially felt coming home was a sign of failure, like I hadn't actually moved on, like the last four years had been erased and I was back in high school.  I had been accepted to attend graduate school at the University of Alabama, but had a complete change of heart. I left the program, the assistantship, the lease, everything to come home.

Thankfully, I did move back.  It enabled me to help my Dad recover from some of his more serious health issues, be around for my Sweet Grandmother as she lived the last months of her life, help my Dear Mother recover from surgery and adjust to her life as caregiver for Sassy Grandma, and led me to where I am today- happy, settled, and loved.

Still, moving home was difficult.  My life changed drastically.  Though I was always working while in school (I had a job or three at any given moment), I still feel like I was able to live "the college life."  Once I moved to Auburn, I made do.  I got a job, I got an apartment.  I worked.  I worked to pay bills.  I worked to keep busy. I worked to figure out who I was, after leaving my college self behind.   I'm sure we've all been through a time like this-- where you're just living, going through the motions. 

I don't mean to imply that I wasn't happy, I was.  After the first few years, I was finally happy with the person I was becoming, and happy being alone.  Happy being by myself, doing my own thing-- cheesy chick flicks from Movie Gallery on a Friday night, lunches at Country's barbecue with the Dad and his cronies, and my weekends spent strolling through thrift stores looking for the next find.  I pretty much kept to myself.

And then I lost a bet.

The card I made for the Man on our first Valentine's Day.
Can you tell we're fans of South Park?

Apparently my "isolation" and "resistance to relationships" (thanks, pop psychologist) was pretty opaque.  The wager was that if I lost, I had to promise to put myself "out there more."  So I did.

The day before I was scheduled to leave the country to travel for work, I received a message from who would soon become the Man.  Yes, we met online (this is the nerdy nest, after all..)We exchanged notes and over the course of the next three weeks had an old-fashioned, new-fangled courtship thanks to VOIP and many late nights.  I'm sure we would have moved our first date up a bit, except he wasn't too keen on flying to Canada. When I returned home, we went out for dinner.. and have been going strong ever since.

Many times, I berated myself for being a hopeless romantic.  For believing in a type of love that is  undeniable, uncommon, persistent and above all else--real.

Instead, as I look forward to a magical weekend of visiting my alma mater-- the school that helped to make me who I am, spending time with some of my greatest friends, remembering those who changed my life for good, and laughing with the man I love-- I remind myself that I am not a hopeless romantic with a flawed view of what love can be.

I am a hopeful romantic, who still believes in love.  I feel that we all deserve to be loved and if we haven't found that person -- maybe you just haven't met them yet.


1 comment:

Alli said...

I LOVE THIS POST! Before I even clicked the link at the end I knew what it was. It had been a while since I'd seen that video and it was funny to see how much of that video reminded of you and 'The Man'. There's a lot of purple, Michael Buble` is from Canada, need I go on? LOL!