I haven’t talked about my childhood yet, because quite honestly, I don’t remember a lot about it. I remember bits and pieces about school and being in the hospital. I remember people, but not events that took place. I remember our dog Rover. I remember when my sister was being born, and I had to go to my uncle and aunt’s house to stay. I remember my dad and mom coming to school to pick me up when they were bringing my sister home. I remember baking her first birthday cake in my Easy Bake Oven. I always hated being at home for the summer. I was so bored I couldn’t stand it. I lived for the day that I could start preparing my school supplies and go back to class.
As I got older, I remember more. The memories of junior high are pretty clear. That’s when I first started making actual friends instead of spending time with people based on proximity.I transferred to another school when I started ninth grade. Most people had gone to school together since they were in kindergarten. It took a while before I felt settled there. I had a best friend and a few other friends that hung around with us, but I was aware that none of us was really in the inner circle (if such a thing actually existed at that school). We were sort of misfits, so it made sense that we all stuck together. But I loved school. I loved most of my teachers. There was little doubt in anyone’s mind that I’d go away to college.
After I took the PSAT and SAT, I started getting information from schools around the country. I don’t know if I would have considered going there, but I sure loved getting the catalogs and admissions brochures. In my junior year, I finally officially settled on going to college in South Carolina.
I knew I didn’t want to go to the University of South Carolina or Clemson. They probably would have been fun because of the sports and wide opportunities that a university would provide. I decided almost right away that I wasn’t going to Winthrop, either. It was only about 3o minutes from home, and that was just too close. I started focusing on the small, private liberal arts colleges in the state. Each of them had a denominational connection, but I didn’t really focus on that. It was much less important to me back then than it might be to students choosing today. They had the environment I was seeking, and that was good enough for me.
I knew I was going to Erskine College in Due West, SC, if I could get the scholarships and financial aid I needed to go, from the first time I set foot on the campus. Why? The second the admissions director saw me, he greeted me by name. The only way he could have floored me any more than that was to pronounce my name correctly. I was sold. The campus was gorgeous, and the environment was welcoming. I knew that I could feel at home there. Thankfully, I went to school back in the day. Tuition, room, and board were expensive, but not excessively so, and I did get enough scholarship assistance that it was doable for me to go.
I never had a best friend there. I always went back and forth between one of the spiritual groups on campus, another set of friends who were kind of middle of the road, and a group that was, for lack of a better way to explain it, kind of more into things I normally wouldn’t participate in.
I loved college. I still wish I could have been a professional student. It wasn’t only the learning, but the opportunity to do things I might never have the nerve to try again. I even had one line in the college’s production of Inherit the Wind and the Student Christian Association’s production of The Giving Tree. (I didn’t have a line in the second one, but I did have to be on stage in a role!) After my first year, everything was smooth sailing academically. I even made the Garnet Circle–I was one of the 25 students who made the highest scholastic average in the previous year. I didn’t graduate with any kind of honors, but I excelled enough that I would love to go back to that time. I haven’t been really good at anything in a long, long time.
I lost contact with so many people over the years it makes me sad. Many of the people I grew up with stayed close to home or went back after living somewhere else for a while. It’s only been in the past 10 years or so that I’ve been reunited with so many people from my school years. Thanks to Facebook, I can still be a misfit. I love “seeing” them, but I never miss that most people have managed to maintain the friends from their school and college years over time, and I have no lasting connections. I’ve often wondered if I could have done things differently and in a way that would keep those connections close. I wish I could.
Due West was home for almost 6 years. I went to seminary there for a year and a half. I haven’t been back since 1992, not even for Homecoming or Alumni Weekends. Maybe one day I will.