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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Final Two Years: Freshman

“Now. Ladies, you must never wear patent leather shoes because it will reflect your undergarments and the boys don’t need to see them. You must never wear jewelry on your ears or around your neck that will reflect your bosom either. This is just not proper for a lady.” The elderly House-Mother was reiterating what the Dean of Women had advised us in her orientation for freshman women. The small group of us, dressed in our Sunday finest, sat with knees together and demitasse cups held properly, pinkie finger straight out from the handle. Did these women realize it was 1967? None of us had worn patent leather shoes since elementary level Sunday School classes and, for some reason, my very proper British-trained mother had missed the vile revelation that I was showing all the little boys my undergarments every Sunday. If she wants to talk normal attire, here, let’s talk about jeans, tee shirts and sneakers, when we weren’t wearing cowboy  or hiking boots…. none of us planned to wear anything to reflect our bosoms and it is hard to reflect anything through the legs of blue-jeans, isn’t it? Our undergarments remained safely out of view of all males trying to get a peek on the way to class. Let’s just say our most positive assessment of this required Tea Party with our dorm’s House-Mother was that the tiny cookies were good. I felt sorry for this lady, having to repeat this performance so many times to get all of the girls in with only space in her small apartment for five or six at one time. It was a high-rise dormitory of first-year teens! Since I was in Room 201, I was amongst the first group of “party-goers” and I wondered how the precious late middle-aged grandmother would do by room 1002! Hers was, definitely, one job to mark off the possible list of employment opportunities in my future.

Most of the orientation sessions and activities were of more relevant information. This was well-before the current trend for on-line class registrations so we stood in long serpentine lines, hoping that there would still be room in the class by the time we were face-to-face with whatever graduate student happened to be so unfortunate to be appointed to signing up first-year students for a specific class. Class-by-class, we made our way through lines and got the necessary signatures on our class schedule cards. It took hours and then more lines to actually pay for the quarter and lab fees. Then, of course, there were lines to wait for ID photos to go on that mandatory Student ID card… a pass for so many things, therefore, not something possible to just skip in this long day of lines and waiting.

During Winter Quarter registration, things were even worse because it was ski season in this mountain university. The crowd for payment of fees was so dense that the entire lobby of the Administration Building filled the foyer, quite literally, standing room only. The line at the cashier’s office moved so slowly and the area became so overloaded with students’ warm bodies and expelled carbon dioxide, that one or two students actually fainted. However, there was not a single bit of floor space to accommodate their unconscious bodies when they collapsed. The crowd just moved them along in line! No, I’m not kidding nor reporting an exaggerated rumor… I saw it with my own eyes.

To be a first-year student meant that you had a lot of required early morning classes, the later hours reserved for upperclassmen, or so it seemed to those of us in Chemistry, at least. So many changes and so much liberty for our 18-year-old lives. No one to shake us awake and push a piece of buttered toast in our hand, eyes barely open while we chewed. We had to get ourselves up, out to breakfast at the Freshman Commons (a distance about the length of a football field away from the dorm’s front door), and, then over to the right Department’s multi-level building and classroom … all before that 8 o’clock bell. Notebook? What notebook? Okay, well, probably that first week no one said anything we needed to take notes on anyway, right? Groan! It was a more difficult adjustment for some than others. Plus, at the end of the day, there was no one to see that we actually read the assignments or did the Algebra problems. With up to 500 kids in a class, who would check on such things? No one… until exam time, that is. Homework could just wait.

Weekends were the biggest challenge for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness… as the American Declaration of Independence would say. We were now very independent teens with no rules other than those our parents had ingrained in us. But, they were not there to enforce the rules… in fact, there were few university rules for off-hours. We had a curfew for the dorm because the front door would be locked at a certain hour and the legal drinking age was still 21, but, otherwise, no one laid any restrictions on us. They were, at this point, only those deeply entrenched in our own moral code. We were on our own.

No doubt our parents were hoping that something like the verse in I. Corinthians Chapter 13 would describe our newly independent lives… that we proved ourselves to be respectable, hard-working young adults who no longer needed monitoring!

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” (Verse 11)

1 comment:

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