As I climbed the stairs of Widener Library, I looked across Harvard Yard. The pennants of the different colleges were hung in the trees. Across the green, on the stage stood a slim, blond woman of a certain age in a red suit. It was Drew Faust, President of Harvard University and my former professor.
Long ago in 1982, in the life that exploded and gave way to this life, I sat in a classroom and learned Southern history from Drew Faust. This was at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. It felt fitting and poignant that she is now President of Harvard, and that I am a student climbing the library stairs. There we were, occupying the same space, separated by decades. How things change, how life goes on. When she was my professor she was expecting a baby and brought her dog to class. The dog lay down and slept through the lectures. Her classes set me on a lifelong history kick. That love of history flowed down to my children. I was so young when I was her student, and she was young too. I wonder if she ever thought she’d be president of Harvard one day, back in the days of teaching The American South.
The stairs of Widener were a favorite place of my two oldest children. The years falls away, they really do. I looked up at the beautiful banner and savored the perfect moment.
Libraries are like churches. They feel sacred and full of hope.
I got a stack of books for summer fun reading, and proceeded to the lunch spot. The day was hot, hot, hot. Lunch was wonderful. Friends are life’s flowers.
Then we parted ways and I took the subway to the bus station, carrying books and bread. I settled into the air conditioned bus for the hour’s trip back to New Bedford. My phone’s battery went out, and I was wondering how I would call home. Then all of a sudden I saw my daughter’s dear friend, and my problem was solved.
All of a sudden, there was Bud in the family van, and a mile later, there was home. Home, with spaghetti cooking and a dog wagging her tail, and the cats walking around with their tails straight up and tall children asking me if I had fun.
I certainly did.