Saturday, February 05, 2005

7. A detour

Interrupting the episodic story of my Jewish life to post from the Yale University Library (who knew you could do anything under these stone arches but look at musty cards in a catalogue drawer? time has certainly marched on). I'm here with my chorus for a concert; I haven't been back for over a decade. I just paid homage to the very spot where the Chicken Incident occurred. I really didn't want to come. I was too busy, too tired, it's Shabbat, etc. But it's not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, although I do feel like I'm dreaming. The buidings, the air, the snow, is all familiar as my own skin. The sky is still Cerulean blue, the temperature too nice to stay cooped up inside painting, a thought that went through my head almost every day for four years.

The scale has changed. Cross Campus and Woolsey Hall were once much larger. Hendrie Hall (my picture and name are still on the wall!) and Phelps Gate are about the same. And the A+A Building--scarier and much more imposing that I remember, with front stairs so deep and rain-grey that I was afraid to walk in. Why? Did I edit and soften its image during all those post-college anxiety dreams? Some of my most unpleasant experiences were in that building (all relative, to be fair, since college was never really unpleasant). It's where I lugged seven huge, wet canvases a few weeks before graduation, getting paint all over my new black coat, and was asked by my evil freshman drawing teacher what had happened, what ridiculous things had I been doing over the past two years to end up painting like *this*. It's where I learned that I had no idea what I was doing, and ducked out to go down the block to the Daily News (closed today, unfortunately), where I did a much better job of feigning competence.

Does every graduate come back and wonder, did I really go here? Did I read all those books? How come some of the details are deep and pristine, but others seem misplaced? It's alien, but also too familiar. Maybe I haven't changed as much as I'd like to think. Or maybe it's just an indelible memory of home--because, as a place, it's all I have now. There's nowhere else to go back to, except in my mind. (This is OK; my mind is a good place to visit.)

I wish I could call my mother and tell her how it feels. The culmination of her life, in all aspects, was my presence here. I haven't missed her this much in a long time.

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