I am not one of the many people who is profoundly impacted by coronavirus. I am one of the, shall we say, “casual casualties,” a young woman raised in a suburb in the southern region of the United States. A girl who dreamed of turning 18 and, like the Dixie Chicks before me, finding a wide open space of my own—a small liberal arts college in the northeast.
When I was a teenager, I would lie on my bedroom floor surrounded by stacks of beautiful hardcover books that I had read, memorized and loved. Their frequency was buoyant, and in these moments, I daydreamed about that little university on a hill, of a campus older than any in the state of Texas, something full of cathedral-like buildings crammed with atlases, reference books, novels and plays, all kept happy and safe on wooden bookshelves. My very own Library of Alexandria, just as sacred and ancient.
I daydreamed about that little university on a hill, of a campus older than any in the state of Texas.
I dreamed of learning esoteric languages, writing prose and poetry. I dreamed of lying on that hillside, on grass green and soft, surrounded by little yellow wildflowers.
Out-of-state tuition would be too expensive, but on a lark, I applied to Syracuse University, my one liberal arts college in the northeast. My mother convinced me to apply. It was her enthusiasm for the establishment that eventually led me to send in my application. I finally decided to take a step to turn a daydream into something real and tangible.
Opening my acceptance letter to Syracuse University, as well as learning of my $80,000 scholarship, will always be a moment I remember as containing the most unadulterated joy I have ever felt. That August, I left home for Syracuse, the city on the hill and where, come April, you can even find little yellow wildflowers (if you know where to look).
Opening my acceptance letter to Syracuse University will always contain the most unadulterated joy I have ever felt.
The world expanded before me that year. I began to think of life as one big opportunity. I learned that daydreams can come to fruition.
Four years later, in lieu of attending my own graduation ceremony, which has been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to re-watch Rory Gilmore’s. The iconic early 2000’s dream girl made reading attractive and big words cool, courtesy of the WB network. On the college graduation episode, there’s a moment right before Rory walks across the stage, when her mother, Lorelai, is fiddling with her camera, anxious to take note of the time her daughter officially becomes a graduate.
Her father, level-headed and stern, addresses her with a simple, “Lorelai, I will note the time. I will take the photo. You just sit there and enjoy your daughter’s graduation from Yale. This is as much your moment as Rory’s. Enjoy it.”
As her name is called, Lorelai Leigh Gilmore, in that staccato one only finds at these such events, we watch mother and daughter exchange a glance that contains hope, satisfaction and love. A dream fulfilled, and all the pomp and circumstance to concrete it in our memories. A daydream turned into a moment, and then, turned into a memory.
A dream fulfilled… A daydream turned into a moment, and then, turned into a memory.
Before the quarantine began, before I knew I was soon to leave Syracuse and never return, I bought a bright orange stole of gratitude to present to my mother at my own graduation that I now know will never happen. It would have been our own mother-daughter moment, an accomplishment that she made possible, with her love and support for me. I pictured taking the stole from around my shoulders and placing it on hers. It would be just as much her moment as mine, and we would enjoy it.
It is shocking, at first, to realize that these benchmarks of our lives are not guaranteed. I have finally come around to accepting the fact that me and my mom will never have that moment I dreamed of us sharing.
It is shocking, at first, to realize that these benchmarks of our lives are not guaranteed.
I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know if I will be able to start grad school in the fall like I planned. Now, rather than finishing up my senior year of college, I’m back in my childhood bedroom, lying on the floor, surrounded by my books.
I’ll just have to keep dreaming for a little longer.
Image via Raisa Zwart Photography