Thursday, October 16, 2008

Who Says You Can't Go Home Again?

It’s that time of year again – autumn leaves are falling, evenings are drawing in, fall sports (i.e. football!) vie for our attention, and the ever-lasting ritual of Homecoming……

If you’re in high school, it likely means your school has a pep rally and maybe you attend a dance. When you’re in college, you might attend a pep rally, watch a parade and then go to the big game (possibly followed by a party afterwards).

It was this ritual I decided to undergo this past weekend when I visited my alma mater, Kent State University, after graduating 14 (long!) years ago.

When I last visited the campus, briefly, in 2002, not much had changed. The Student Center courtyard was finished after undergoing a lot paving and landscaping works while I was in my senior year. I was told my dormitory had been updated and converted into apartments. The only thing that looked different about it from the outside was that the ivy had been removed – stripping away some of its character if you ask me. Yes, I suppose tiny critters could have used the ivy to scale the walls and invade our rooms, but none ever visited me, so I was fine with the New England charm enveloping my domicile. Walking around the rest of campus, most everything looked the same as I remembered, so I left content with that knowledge.

In six short years, not only have new halls been added (like Centennial Hall – the dorm of the future….) many of the dorms seem to have undergone complete renovation (from the inside) rendering them almost unrecognizable to those of us who used to frequent them. Okay, so perhaps they were a bit dated probably not seeing too much of a change in décor from the 70’s, or maybe 80’s, but we still loved them all the same.

I guess the students of today (who I am old enough to be a parent of!) expect a lot more in the way of comforts and luxury. With cozy seating, fireplaces and a big screen TV in each lounge, I doubt there’s much they can complain about! We even had a baby grand piano in our lounge, but that’s since been removed.

There didn’t seem to be many university run cafeterias left since chain fast food restaurants moved in (at least in the student center). I also noticed grocery stores adjoining cafeterias in a couple of the dorms. In my day (said while waiving my cane and holding up my sagging panty hose with the other hand), we only had a tiny store in the basement of one of the dorms. If you wanted proper food, you shopped off campus at either Apples, or Giant Eagle (neither of which exist anymore). Yes, life is good for the student of the 21st century, except for when it comes to graduating and finding a job. I don’t envy them that arduous task!

By the end of the weekend I almost found myself grasping at straws to find at least one or two familiar places. It seemed little had changed at the Rathskeller (though I only poked my head in for a second), the library (books & periodicals still collecting dust on the 10th floor!), and the Franklin Square Deli (downtown).
I think my uncle probably said it best, “I suppose we have an idealized vision in our minds of what things were once like, and it is kind of sobering when we see the reality of the changes (not all positive) that time has brought.”

I wish there was a special elevator (or tardis?) I could enter where when I stepped out, I would be back in 1994 (or earlier even!) so I could go back and revisit ‘my Kent State’ one more time before tucking away that memory forever.

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