A willful amnesia

Going to miss these kids

A funny thing happens the last few weeks of spring semester. One morning, magically, the grass on Old Campus turns green again and soft. The sun emerges exuberantly and all at once, anxious, perhaps, to forget a half-year of forced hibernation and relentless cat-and-mouse. The light teal of the clock face on Harkness Tower begins, finally, to approximate the color of the sky.

It’s a strange sort of trick Yale plays on us. Brief, intense moments of sun and warmth bookend the school year, from Camp Yale to mid-October and then again near Spring Fling. In fleeting pockets of blue sky and welcome humidity, we experience college the way it’s advertised online and in the brochures. We toss Frisbees on Cross Campus and then feast on Ashley’s before sunbathing on a friend’s roof at the top of Morse Tower. We wear sunglasses and sundresses. Time seems almost within our control; it slows for us, heightening the sensations of each moment and deluding us into thinking that these, the days we’re happy and carefree and wild, might last forever.

Of course in a way they do. That’s the thing about memory: We remember beginnings and endings but not so much what happens in between. It’s almost as though Yale intentionally places its best days at the start and finish so that, upon graduation, we remember Spring Fling and Myrtle Beach and Senior Week instead of final exams, midterm papers and the harsh, biting cold.

Today, finishing my last class of the year, I sat on Old Campus as light refracted off the High Street Gate and a pair of students played the fiddle. I was thinking that I don’t mind this willful amnesia, that what I want to remember about Yale after all are days like today, days of brilliant sunlight and cool breeze, of walking the longer route to class and lounging, after, in a choice spot of shade. It’s the Yale of the song: bright, happy, golden and — soon — bygone. Can that be all there is? I can’t help thinking we live so little of our time in beginnings and endings, that we live, by definition, mostly in the middle — and wouldn’t I be missing that?

In the end I want to remember more than the beginning, more than the happy and sunny and warm. I want to remember that time I opened my apartment door to find New Haven bathed in a sea of white. I want to remember the frigid nights my roommate and I ordered Alpha Delta and danced to keep ourselves from falling asleep. I want to remember the papers and the deadlines. I want to remember those crisp, fall days I sat on my Swing Space window ledge, watching the leaves redden and fall and talking to friends about things meaningful and inane.

It’s not possible, but I’ll say it anyway: I want to remember everything.

Comments