A long goodbye

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One day in the final week before my retirement from my position at the University I took a stroll over to the Fine Arts building on the campus.

It’s been a long time since I visited this department even though it’s a short jaunt up the hill from the culinary department where I work. And it was a bit sentimental because I and this institution have a deeply personal history and I felt like I needed to revisit my “roots” and say goodbye.

My relationship to this campus isn’t only for the duration of my employment here of the last 7 years, but all the way back to 1976 when it was a college. This is where at 18 I began my Fine Arts degree, right here.

I opened the big glass door and stood in the foyer and memories came flooding back. The couch over there against the wall where we took breaks from our painting to have a smoke and talk with the instructor. The studios forested with easels, the smell of acrylics and oils, graphite and charcoal. My fingers stained with whatever medium I had been working with. I walked over to where the printing studio was but it no longer held the big press I had used for Lithographs and the silk screen frames were no longer there, it was now full of what looked like set design maquettes. I entered the vacant sculpture studio and saw that it hasn’t changed at all, the pleasant memory of working with the Lost Wax Method where I made a bronze cast of a bear in a cave, that I still have, and the unpleasant memory of working with resins. Nothing good came from that. I walked across the hall and peered in through the glass window in the door at the ceramics studio full of engaged students talking, laughing or quietly focused on the wheel. It looked just as I had left it. To add, this is where my mom when in her 50’s taught pottery in the evenings to Community Ed students.

It’s a heady place this campus. It witnessed many of my life changes and growth; a pivotal place. Every decade of my adult life is attached to this place. 

This is where in my first year I moved out of my parents home and together with my boyfriend of 3 years also a fellow art student, and another art student got our first apartment. The second year my boyfriend went on a student exchange to Florida and left me on my own. His sister and a two of our friends, also students, shared a large house to finish out the second year. When my boyfriend came back for a visit we agreed to marry the following year. My mom and I window shopped for wedding dresses, but it had been a long year apart, and consequently I branched out socially; when he returned my feelings had changed and I broke up with him.

I had during that second year become involved in a small theatre group during my second year headed by an English Professor who wrote satirical musicals and this campus theatre is where I performed and sang in those plays publicly in my first ever stage appearance. I also fell in love with the piano player. Our little theatre group segued into a working band of 10 musicians and we played gigs that consisted of all original songs all over town developing a sizable following. Both the piano player, our lead singer, as well as our slide guitarist have continued on in very successful musical careers.

This campus is where we held our practice sessions, and when our drummer left for the Caribbean to work for Club Med another drummer came to try out and stayed. Turned out I would spend 5 years with this man and have a daughter. To add, a colleague I recently shared my office space with for the last seven years had years ago bought the house he had built in 1975, before he  joined our band and when he was married. She bought it from his ex-wife. She and I discovered this when conversing over coffee break one day.

Of course woven through those happy events are some bitter lessons, some bad decisions, and maybe even a regret or two, but the truth of the matter is they were deep and in many ways profoundly enriching. So were the good times. Very much so.

This campus saw me return again in my 30’s to enroll to become a Baker, during which time my brother was dying from bowel cancer, and I returned again in my 40’s to become a chef. Then to return again in my 50’s as an employee working as a chef assistant.

Every decade of my adult life is attached to this place.

And now here I am. Was and was.

So now it must certainly be adieu mustn’t it? I really hesitate to be steadfast in anything final. Lets just say I will not be surprised if for some reason I find my footsteps once again carrying me back to embark on yet another enterprise in my 60th decade. But for now I give thanks and honor the memories, and for many ways in being a place of life experience and learning for me.


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