Every September, I dream (usually several nights in a row) that I must repeat high school. I get lost in a labyrinthine building and arrive late for class. Teacher castigates me; classmates snicker. Then, I realize I’m not wearing pants.
You don’t have to be a Jungian analyst to surmise that I’m still working through some residual dread inspired by high school—math, chemistry, and gym classes, in particular.
College was different. No math, chemistry, or gym, and all the film, French, and philosophy courses I could handle. I loved college so much, in fact, that after I graduated, I worked for six years at another college Every August, under the thrum of cicadas, students moved in, hauling textbooks and lamps, bedding and rolled-up posters. The students’ excitement was contagious. As I passed them on the sidewalk, coffee-to-go in hand, I silently wished for them inspiring professors, and many moments of satisfying self-discovery.
So the phrase “back to school” signals a weird mix of emotions for me: wacky, I’m-not-wearing-pants dreams, plus a small yearning for a college campus with magically colossal sycamores and stone buildings straight out of Hogwarts.
Extra tidbit: When I worked as a reporter at a small-town newspaper in Massachusetts, I interviewed some volunteers who traveled to New Orleans to help rebuild, one year after the hurricane. The interviews inspired All Come Home. One volunteer told me about a New Orleans man who stood at attention as a yellow school bus rounded the corner in his neighborhood. Since the floods, schools had been closed; the bus was a sign that life was returning to normal.
~ Alicia Bessette
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