For the past year or so, I’ve been waiting for post-college life to click like Elizabethtown College did. I’ve itched for a game of Mafia; I’ve hungered for a chicken ranch cheesesteak on a pretzel roll; I’ve longed to inhale the sweet smell of the M&M Mars Factory on a chocolate day (full disclosure: I would even settle for a cow day at this point). Basically, I’m woefully homesick.
Luckily for my fragile psyche, one magical weekend exists each year when I can pretend I never left the Blue Jay nest: Homecoming. And, after all, in the words of the immortal John Francis Bongiovi, Jr., who says you can’t go home?
Homecoming Weekend offers something for everyone. The parade is always a high point of Saturday, complete with candy-throwing for the kids—or the kids at heart. For the shopaholic, there’s the Midway Fair, where you can proclaim your Blue Jay love by purchasing a shirt that says as much in a variety of colors. The weekend also boasts a wide array of entertainment, including Friday’s Mad Cow show and Saturday’s Annual Homecoming A Cappella Extravaganza, now in its second year. And, of course, let’s not forget Oktoberfest, where alumni can partake in an all-you-can-eat buffet and imbibe to their hearts’ content.
For me, though, none of these attractions would be worth the two-hour drive to Etown if Homecoming Weekend didn’t include one final, all-important aspect: reunion with the people I called my family for four years. (If this were a tweet, I’d insert a little “#bluejaysalways” action right about here.)
Nearly a year and a half away from Etown has proven to me what I always knew: the special sense of community that emanates from our college campus is due to the people who walk its paths. During those four years in the Etown bubble, we all find our own niche within that community until we’re so tightly bound that we don’t know how we’d live without each other.
But life goes on after Etown. Each class of alumni before us is literally living proof. However, Etown also goes on after we leave, and that was the hardest lesson for me to learn. With each visit back to the alma mater last year, I saw that the holes left by my class were a little less empty. By graduation 2011, they were nonexistent. Let me tell you, it’s bizarre to see a place that you were so much a part of — and that was so much a part of you — continue to grow without you.
Homecoming Weekend is the one time of year when Etown still clicks for me, and that’s because everyone I loved so much during my time as an Etown student is back on the same campus. (Yes, professors of the English and communications departments, that includes you.) The only thing that could make it better would be a massive game of fruitbasket (hint, hint).
Contrary to the impression I may have given thus far, I’m not delusional. My college experience had its ups and downs; there were some days when Etown felt like a cage from which I couldn’t wait to be freed. But this weekend, I won’t remember any of that. My four years at Etown may not have been perfect, but Homecoming is.