It’s funny how scents can take me right back to past times, and it’s funny which scents remind me of those times.

In my first year of public school (which was 10th grade), I carried around Purell hand sanitizer and used it frequently. Now, whenever I use Purell, I get echoes of feelings of 10th grade.

Today, I washed my hands using black raspberry and vanilla hand soap at someone else’s house. Driving home, I tried to place it – the sense of expectation and order. I figured out that’s the hand soap we had right around the time I had my daughter. Before her birth, I spent time sitting and reading and studying…and I was very expectant. Odd how the echoes of those feelings come back to me.



I am twelve years old. I am homeschooled. I love to read and play outside with my sisters. My world is a house in Texas. We never watch the news, and my parents don’t tell us about the bad things that happen to children. We once walked out of a church service when the priest started describing a child abuse case. I know bad things happen, but I don’t know the details of anything like that. I know Clinton was impeached, but I don’t know the particulars, only that he lied to the American people.

I am twelve years old. We aren’t doing school today, because we are sick, especially my brother. He is lying down on the couch, as we always do when we’re sick, and I’m about to give him something to eat or drink.

My father comes running out of his office. “The World Trade Center towers have fallen!” He turns the TV on and squats, tears running down his face.

The first image we see is a skyscraper collapsing.

I just stand there, not sure whether to laugh or cry. My first thought is that it’s special effects, of course. But I don’t know. I don’t know what these buildings are.

And then I find out.

I find out that the World Trade Center towers have thousands of people in them every day. I find out that extremist Muslims believe that we are evil, and that by flying planes into American buildings, they are insuring eternal bliss for themselves. I find out that a two year old child was on one of those planes (who kills a two year old child??). I see people in Pakistan dancing for joy in the streets because we are reeling, because we are being killed. The Pentagon is hit. I have a cousin who may be working there, but later we find out she’s fine. A teenage girl in NYC – “I just want my mom” – biting her lip, turning away. Nameless, helpless. I’ve always wondered if she ever found her mother, or if she was one of the 3000+ who lost a parent. There are no planes flying over the US.

The news is on for three straight days, on the air and in my house, with Peter Jennings telling us everything – what we already know, what we’re just now finding out. As a nation, we learn that there are people who will fly a plane into a building, on purpose. Who does that? WHO DOES THAT??? Who would EVER do that? Especially when it’s a passenger jet filled with people????

Now we know.

And it is impossible to forget.

Hail to thee, my alma mater

Today was Convocation, a celebration of past excellence and future glory. Petty drama forgotten and cliques transcended, we applauded our classmates and rejoiced in our common experience of a college unique in every way, and an education rarely imagined in the world of American colleges. We sang the school song — which happens to be medieval Latin.

Then we drank the beer the school bought for us. Later that night, we bought more beer, and partied at Senior TGIT (Thank God It’s Thursday) — another special thing that only our college has. We cheered for the slideshow and senior superlatives.

And, more than anything else, we celebrated the idiosyncrasies of this crazy, wonderful place. The buildings that should have been torn down in 1970, and all the other evidence of a school doing great things with little money. The fact that when a picture of the Pope appears, everyone screams — and all the other evidence of a school filled with Catholics who truly practice their faith. The way everyone knows each other, by sight and often by name.

Four years ago, we arrived at this college eager to find ourselves and make new friends. Now, we leave it, having learned more than we ever dreamed we could — and knowing that we know oh so little.

I am so blessed and proud to have this college as my alma mater.