December 17, 2010 On Saturday night, I participated in a secret snowflake/frosty friend (we debated the name and were never quite sure which won out) gift exchange in Babbit 21. Friends drew one another’s names anonymously before Thanksgiving and, given two weeks to come up with suitable gifts, presented them to our respective recipients at a snow-filled get-together. The gifts were astonishingly wonderful. Deborah composed a song; Olivia received her favorite type of Russian pretzel; Michael got Bananagrams, the best word game on the planet. My recipient was Catie, for whom I knit a green scarf to match her jacket. It was too short, but she seemed to like it anyway. Unbeknownst to me, my secret snowflake was Michael, who had borrowed my car to go to the bookstore several days before. He gave me “The Little Black Book to Paris,” which he had filled with notes indicating his favorite parts of the city (Michael was on the Hamilton Program in Paris for the entirety of last year), and a small black Moleskine notebook. In it, he had inscribed the first page in French: for all of your adventures, expeditions, and discoveries in France, and had signed it, all the world is yours. I gave him a hug, said thank you, and walked into the Babbit bathroom to compose myself.
It’s Tuesday morning and I walk Lauren to her car. Having followed Allison to her empty room, I watch as she places her papers in boxes, looking out over her stripped bed to a snow-heavy Minor field. Michael informed me yesterday that it would take me longer than I anticipated to pack up my own room, as I am a person who becomes attached to objects and will get emotional when I have to say goodbye to the people they represent. At the time, I got offended and told him this was false; I will miss the people I’m leaving, but I have been anticipating my departure for a while now, I know what to predict and avoid. Having seen my friend’s empty room, however, I am no longer so sure. Last night I finished my fifteen-page paper and walked to Babitt through a haze of lake-effect snow to see Olivia for the first time in too long. Together with Michael and Catie, we watched “A Muppet Christmas Carol,” and compared stories from our childhoods (the other three shocked that I had not been exposed to Muppets in my formative years). When the video paused to load, Olivia opened her blinds to the sight of two deer standing in the snow, picking berries from the Crabapples and nuzzling one another softly. We watched them for half an hour, Olivia talking about how they are her favorite animal, Michael and Catie complaining about how, growing up in New Jersey, they do not appreciate the animals, I (as usual), vocalizing my wonder in a series of incoherent, excited sounds.
I’m sitting in the writing center now, half an hour before work. I tell Olivia how I mistyped her name as “Olivie” and she says “why don’t I ever get shout-outs in your journal entries?” “You will now,” I say, and she replies in the sing-song, childlike voice she makes when joking. “No I won’t. It’s too late now. You’re leaving.” Wednesday afternoon finds me still in the writing center, finishing an Art History paper on a Medieval manuscript, wired from a large hazelnut café au lait (which Nick and Michael warned me against drinking and then criticized my slurping!), and watching the snow fall steadily outside the long windows. I met Nick, Michael, Olivia, and Preetha for Cheddar Apple Paninis at Opus, my very favorite lunch, and spent a delightful hour being far too loud for the crowded café. This morning, Preetha told Michael I couldn’t leave, and I very nearly lost my composure in the tutor workroom. I cannot figure out whether beginning to pack now will speed up the process or just make me depressed, so I decide to put it off.
I spend Wednesday night sleeping over in Babbitt with Olivia for the last time. We watch A Philadelphia Story in our pajamas and eat popcorn. The snow falls steadily outside of the window and when I wake up at 7, I walk out to the common room and sit in my usual blue-cushioned corner, watching the hazy blue landscape turn slowly white. Thursday morning, I wake up in Babbitt, shower, and have breakfast with Kate in McEwen. I go back to Keehn and work on my final portfolio for Creative Writing until my Art History final presentations in the afternoon. After two hours spent hearing about castles and medieval weddings, I go back to my room and change for John McEnroe (my Art History professor, with whom I went to Greece)’s holiday party. I meet Kiernan, my roommate from the dig, and we drive to Utica, where we spent a lovely two hours mingling with adults, eating spiced pecans, and expressing relief at being able to get away from the craze that is finals week. I get back to campus around 7, go to Babbit, where Michael, Nick, Alison, Ilse, and Amanda are having dinner. I am hyper and in a festive mood, and relate all of my stories from the party until no one else in the room can get a word in edgewise. Finally, I realize I still need to complete my portfolio, and go back to Keehn to polish my last few stories.
After a few hours, I meet Amanda and Preetha in the writing center to print out my work. Amanda sees that I am beginning to get overwhelmed by everything (I hyperventilate and speak even faster than usual when I am stressed), and forces me to go on a walk around KJ. We study some, and around ten Nick and Michael come get me, and together we go back to Keehn, where Michael gives Nick some of his music, and plays some of the rest, laughing at certain ridiculous tracks. I sit on the bed, hugging my knees, unusually quiet. A person who is never at a loss for words, I am finding myself strangely silent these few days, knowing that every moment I have with friends constitutes the last in some way or another, and not wanting to let go. Amanda comes over around midnight, and we laugh, commiserate about our emotional states, and watch ridiculous You Tube videos. Everyone leaves around two, but I do not get very much sleep. Friday morning I shower and dry my hair while listening to “Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby,” go take my French exam (which is not nearly as bad as I anticipated, despite my over-exhausted state). I meet Amanda in the writing center, where she is working, and say goodbye to Patrick, who is leaving for DC next semester.
The goodbyes are becoming frequent, but I feel somehow disconnected from them. I know I will miss everyone, some people especially terribly, but this does not seem real quite yet. The past week has been both incredibly brief and lasting in its concentrated intensity. We have lunch at the diner, and I eat my gluten-free burger and think, this is the last meal on campus I will have with Nick and Michael. After countless pre-choir dinners and Babbitt-common room meals, I find this impossible to believe. So I try not to. I go back to my room and survey its entirety for the last time, knowing that in a few minutes I will begin to put my things in boxes, pack my car, lie on my empty bed for one last time, get into my station wagon with Nick and Michael (who are coming home with me for the first week of break), and drive away. When I come back for graduation in May, jetlagged and with five months of Parisian life behind me, I am sure not much will have changed. But for now, in this last moment of quiet before the storm, I feel like everything is ending.
So here it is, my love letter to Hamilton, my nostalgic and all-too-cliché confession of adoration, the things I will miss most. I will end it here, before my room is empty, before the long teary goodbyes, before I board my transcontinental flight. I have always believed that the doorway moments in life, the pauses between two great events or life changes, is the time when one’s sight is the clearest. I know my next semester will be wonderful; I know it will change me and help me grow; I know I will return happy and fulfilled and ready for another year on the hill. Until, then, however, here is my temporary goodbye: I will miss hot chocolate dates in Opus with my steaming cup of no-foam chocolate, laughing until my sides ache and people walking by begin to stare. I will miss breakfast with Michael every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday before class, miss our brisk walks to the light side, miss the way I urge him to try the egg wraps every time they are there, and how, whining about my desire to eat vicariously through others, he concedes. I will miss our midnight brainstorming in the Writing Center, miss sharing an umbrella as we walk to Comp. Lit movies in the rain, miss the way he combines two words into one. I will miss showing up at Amanda’s room at two in the morning with a crisis, a story, or a demand for a hug, and running into Patrick in the diner, or else asleep on the writing center desk. I will miss window waves with Allison across the space between Root and Keehn. I will miss waking up to the laughter of toddlers as they bound fleece-clad through the snow. I will miss the terrifying thrill of biking to class on my teal Bianchi. I will miss stopping by Sharon’s office at all hours of the day and changing the levers on her chair. I will miss listening to the Counting Crows with Catie, and having I will miss watching Doctor Who with Olivia, comparing emails from our professors, and making breakfast on Sunday mornings. I will miss Nick in each and every way, miss his sassy comments, miss the notes on my wall, miss the dizzy, delirious feeling that comes from laughing too hard and too often. I will miss my waffle ceiling. I will miss the person I am around the people with whom I am the most happy in the entire world, miss the ability to say anything, to laugh as hard as I possibly can.
I am afraid I will never again be able to capture this feeling of absolute and elated contentment. I suppose this too is one of the realizations of adulthood, one of the reasons I came to Hamilton and now must go away. I have to be able to let go of those I love and hope that the connections we have can bridge the waters between us. And it is with this that I put the first of my books into boxes.