By Julia Spicher Kasdorf
Among the first we learn is good-bye,
your tiny wrist between Dad's forefinger
and thumb forced to wave bye-bye to Mom,
whose hand sails brightly behind a windshield.
Then it's done to make us follow:
in a crowded mall, a woman waves, "Bye,
we're leaving," and her son stands firm
sobbing, until at last he runs after her,
among shoppers drifting like sharks
who must drag their great hulks
underwater, even in sleep, or drown.
Living, we cover vast territories;
imagine your life drawn on a map--
a scribble on the town where you grew up,
each bus trip traced between school
and home, or a clean line across the sea
to a place you flew once. Think of the time
and things we accumulate, all the while growing
more conscious of losing and leaving. Aging,
our bodies collect wrinkles and scars
for each place the world would not give
under our weight. Our thoughts get laced
with strange aches, sweet as the final chord
that hangs in a guitar's blond torso.
Think how a particular ridge of hills
from a summer of your childhood grows
in significance, or one hour of light--
late afternoon, say, when thick sun flings
the shadow of Virginia creeper vines
across the wall of a tiny, white room
where a girl makes love for the first time.
Its leaves tremble like small hands
against the screen while she weeps
in the arms of her bewildered lover.
She's too young to see that as we gather
losses, we may also grow in love;
as in passion, the body shudders
and clutches what it must release.
I spent most of Monday at the University of Maryland's summer orientation program for incoming freshmen, which includes two days of activities for students and one for parents. While Daniel -- who bumped into friends from high school almost as soon as we got there -- went off with the engineers for scheduling, campus tours, sports, movies, and an overnight in one of the dorms, Paul and I went to sessions on finance, health and safety, counseling, dining service, and other less-fun but still interesting subjects. We met several families from New Jersey which I thought was interesting -- I hadn't realized that UMD was such a draw from that state -- and had lunch with parents from Waldorf who are both engineers, though their daughter wants to study something in the humanities. We got to eat in the South Campus dining hall, and I ate way too much, having forgotten the evils of the college buffet -- salad bar, pizza, multiple desserts, and those are just the vegetarian things (there were also burgers, sandwiches, etc.).
We did a bit of walking around the central area of campus and visited the bookstore in the student union, which was where the main program was held in the ballroom. The program was very well organized, with student volunteers everywhere and speakers from various academic areas, student life, campus tech, etc. It was quite hot in the morning when we decided to walk from the parking lot near the Comcast Center to registration in Cole Field House, but it was overcast and quite lovely in the afternoon when we saw Testudo in front of the library and passed the sheep in the agricultural school's farm on the way back to the parking lot. Adam spent the day with my parents playing tennis and Scrabble and eating out for both lunch and dinner so he had a good day; Daniel replied to my last text asking how the night had been with "Still doing stuff" which I assume means okay. We get to retrieve him tomorrow afternoon and hear about things he has decided he must have for college.
Maryland mascot Testudo in front of McKeldin Library...
...and his twin in the Stamp Student Union. (Students rub their noses for good luck, as you can tell.)
A view of the longest university mall (by six inches) in the United States.
Famous Terp alumnus Jim Henson is commemorated by a bench that portrays him in dialogue with his beloved Muppet.
One of the "Fear the Turtle" statues has been made up as Kermit, too.
This one, nearby in the student union, has musical notes and rainbows and butterflies.
This is the dorm that houses the College Park Scholars program, where orientation students spend the night.
The dorm is one of the closest to the department of agriculture, which has a small farm on campus with cows and sheep.