Between forkfuls of pulled pork at Dana brunch this Saturday, I asked my roommate if, for some reason, homecoming seemed to be more of an even this year than in past years. “Yeah!” she responded in total agreement, “maybe it’s because for the first time I’m really noticing people that weren’t here and have come back, you know?”
For some reason, before this year, I had never noticed homecoming. I knew that it existed, but much in the same way that I didn’t really pay attention to the life of the pulled pork before it wound up on my plate, it was just something that happened around me. This year was different. I began to pick up on a certain something in the air. Perhaps it’s the fact that this October has been uncharacteristically temperate. Perhaps it’s the fact that the North Country foliage permeates everything with its warm glow. Perhaps it’s the fact that everything seems to be just a little bit better whenever the alumni are in town.
No, I think that my roommate was partly right. I began to see people around, not even people I knew personally, but people whose presence I recognized. That kid who I had Mystery and Meaning with my freshman year, the girl who I always saw working at that one computer in the library. I don’t even know their names, but I know their faces. I can’t say I even consciously realized that they weren’t in my life anymore until they were back in it.
I’m currently coming to the realization that over the course of the past year, I have spent about ten months at SLU, much more time then I have at the place I actually call home. I hadn’t even realized the implications of the word “home” within “homecoming”. Homecoming for me had always been visions of high school football games and “school spirit,” nothing more.
I think the fact that next year I could be the one coming back here, coming back “home” is what is making this homecoming the only one that has ever stood out to me in my entire career as a student (both in high school and college). Because it will be the last homecoming that will happen around me rather than a homecoming that I actually seek out. Because, for any further homecomings I will actually have to come home rather than merely be at home already.
This summer I lived in Canton in order to write poems about the North Country for a SLU fellowship. It’s just occurred to me that I am still figuring out what it means to call this home. I will always complain about how cold the winter is or how sick I am of being so far from “civilization” (hey, a girl’s gotta shop). But right now, in the (not so) harsh light of this beautiful Sunday afternoon, I am realizing that—good god— I love it here and I will probably be writing about that for the rest of my life.