Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bucknell 1966

I'm back in St. Louis after a week in the Baltimore suburb of Hunt Valley receiving supplemental ALJ training with about 100 other new ALJs hired last year. It was a long week, often worthwhile. I had the good fortune to be able to spend a good deal of time with friends I made last year in training including Fred Upshall who I recently visited in Albuquerque.

As you know from last week's post, I spent some time last weekend at my mother's house with my brother Rick going through the rooms, sorting things and deciding what to do with them. I brought some pictures and papers home with me that my mother decided to preserve. Among these was a crumbling letter I wrote her during my first month as a freshman at Bucknell University. Here it is:


Bucknell University

Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, 17837

Dear Mom,

Thanks for the umbrella! It came at the right time. It has been raining for 3 days now just a steady mist and a real pour every ½ hr. or so. Last night on the way back to the dorm got caught in a thunderstorm and also got rather wet but it's all in the day. Classes are quite different than I figured. I feel quite comfortable in my Biology and Asian History courses but English and German are still in the doubtful stage. We [dissec]ted a white rat in my first 3 hr. Bio. Lab, but had to buy a dissecting kit and a lab apron. Total costs include charge - $55.61 for books and equipt., cash $8.70 for gym suits and $6.00 for lockers and towels in gym + miss. leaves me with $6.00 cash should be enough to last me for awhile, I hope. I got the gym s[ … ] $7.70 which usually costs $9.88 a savings of over $2.00. I'm trying to keep expenses down but certain things are necessary although those things should soon slack off. Next Fri. Sat. the Fabulous Four Seasons are coming to give a concert and that will cost me at least $2.50 but not more than $5.00. The 5 would be for 2 tickets for there is always that possibility. I still have $50 in my checking account subtracting bills I have not yet paid so I'm set for the time being. Life is good here. All are quite friendly and the profs take a personal interest in the students. The Methodist church is very progressive and operates a coffee house and a college student dinner on Sat. night and the preacher is fab. Will sign of now – Send news!



I'm deeply touched my mom thought to save this letter. The low cost of items stunned me as did my obsessive thriftiness. I was on a scholarship that paid my tuition, room and board, but all other expenses had to come from my meager savings and the small amounts my mother and grandmother sent me. I don't remember ever going to the Four Seasons concert and certainly did not have a date, however hopeful I may have been. I dropped out of Biology after one semester of struggle, but still remember my Asian History well. As it turned out I learned to love English lit classes and even remember a bit of German. I went on to manage the coffee house in the basement of the Methodist church and serve as a student assistant pastor for a time. So much pre-figured in a short letter.

As I look through the items found in the crowded drawers and closets, I'm surprised to find so many memories I had presumed lost.

Many of you wrote to tell me your own stories of cleaning out a parent's house. I appreciate these stories very much. The process of sifting teaches everyone an important lesson about mortality and the things we collect as we move along that can't be learned any other way.

Hopefully everyone saw the news that Billy Elliott (see my February 7, 2009 post) was a big winner at the Tony awards recently. Big congratulations and hugs to Erin and Casey Whyland and their proud parents Chris and Melissa.

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