Sunday, July 03, 2022

Life & Style

The Graduates

My niece just graduated from college. When I think of that, everything tilts in my brain and I feel a little woozy. When I think of how long it’s been since I graduated from college...okay, I’m not going to think about that.

I’m sitting under a tent at my niece’s graduation from Roger Williams University and suddenly I feel very homesick. I’m homesick for both a place and a time. I graduated from the University of Connecticut and while the school is still there up in the hills of Storrs, it’s bigger now. A lot has changed, and when I go to visit there are parts I don’t even recognize. I’m homesick for the smaller campus and no cell phones and no social media. I’m homesick for the silly messages people would leave on the little whiteboard I had taped to my dorm room door.

I’m homesick for the trek across campus from class, even on days when the wind would claw through my thin overcoat. This is how long ago it was: I wore a Walkman for the journey. I’d blast Kate Bush or Shriekback, the orange foam of my earphones not offering any protection for my hearing, just a tinny blast of sound. I’m homesick for the dorm cafeteria where I’d head after morning classes. I’d sit with my friends and make sure I was facing the door, scoping to see when the boy (or, let’s face it, boys) I liked would walk in.

I’m even homesick for my classes. I liked going to class, I just didn’t like taking tests. Relief surrounded me like a warm blanket when I handed in my last final exam. As I placed the blue book on my professor’s desk I grinned and said, “Last one!”

Mostly I’m homesick for the time I was there. The exciting, silly, sometimes stressful four years when my world revolved around that campus.

I’m homesick for the day I left. It’s one of those days that you’d think would fade over the years. It hasn’t.

I was in my car, hustling myself home after my last day at the dorm. I insisted on moving myself out without any parental help. My car was crammed full. It was a small car and I had four years of accumulated things jammed into it.

In my overpacked jalopy I cruised down a hill I’d cruised down dozens of times during my tenure at the school. It was a gorgeous May afternoon. The leaves were finally grown out and deepened to a dark shade of green. My front windows were open to let in the breeze that always calmed just before it was time to leave for the summer. The sun was bright and late-spring strong.

As I reached mid-point of the downward slope, it hit me: I’m leaving campus for the last time. When I arrived as a freshman, I didn’t even know how to drive. I felt proud of not only passing my classes well enough to get my diploma but also for becoming a real adult doing real adult things. I learned how to drive. I learned how to take responsibility for my own possessions. I had relationships and rented apartments and kept a checkbook balanced. I learned that money runs out if you buy your weekend meals at restaurants instead of cooking them yourself. It became all about Ramen noodles instead of Paul’s Pizza. I got a job during the school year to pay for gas and car maintenance. Car ownership, I also learned, is expensive.

Driving down the hill that day I was proud. I wasn’t homesick. Yet.

Years later I watch my niece smile as she’s handed her diploma. It’s another lovely May afternoon. Later as we leave the campus, I realize how flat it is on the way out. No rolling hills. But there is a bridge and as my niece drives over it, I wonder if that’s a moment that will someday make her homesick.

Juliana Gribbins is a writer who believes that absurdity is the spice of life. Her book Date Expectations is winner of the 2017 Independent Press Awards, Humor Category and winner of the 2016 IPPY silver medal for humor. Write to her at Read more of her columns at


Juliana Gribbins is the Columnist for Zip06. Email Juliana at .

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