Today I arrived for my first day of the Montana Writing Project, a 2-week institute which is part of the National Writing Project. It is taking place on the campus I attended for the final 3 semesters of my undergraduate work. While I have visited the campus for various events since I was a student here, I found myself feeling quite different today, returning as a student.
As I arrived on campus this morning, I found myself doing the math in my head, realizing it was 20 years ago when I arrived in June to take 6 weeks of summer coursework. My now 23 year-old daughter was 3, and as a single mom, it made more sense for her to remain at home with my mom and dad, while I made the 2 hours commute back and forth on weekends.
Walking the campus this morning, I found myself flooded with vivid memories of a time so long ago, yet it felt like it was yesterday. The sights and sounds of familiar buildings I spent a great deal of time in brought the details of those days back to the forefront of my mind, and I found myself feeling a bit like I was back in time momentarily, reflecting on so many memories filled with both struggle and joy.
I remembered the Sunday afternoon I had to say goodbye to my daughter, who had been diagnosed with pneumonia just that morning in the E.R. My parents were my heroes in moments like that. Their support and encouragement as I worked to earn my teaching degree was fierce, and their love for their granddaughter was exponentially fiercer. I knew she was in the best hands, and over the next weeks, my mom would email me every day detailing all of their daily activities so that I never felt far away from my little girl. I didn’t know why at the time, but I printed those emails, and still have every one. I dug them out when my mom passed away in 2016, and the comfort they brought me is immeasurable.
I watched my little girl grow up, and just one year ago, watched as she graduated on this campus. Interestingly, when we were here for graduation, I didn’t find myself experiencing the same flood of emotions I did today. Perhaps that is because it was her day, and her celebration. Today it feels like my day, and my reflection. To be here, and remember then.