So we’re not back in residence. I would have been back this year, but now I’ve got my own place off campus. I loved living in residence, despite the hair in the shower and the puke on the floor, so in honour of that love, here are some sentimental ramblings on the things that started the romance.
It started with the easy camaraderie. I’ve never had the same kind of easy friendship that I had with the people I shared my residence with in my first year. I am deeply nostalgic about the first few weeks of school, when O Week celebrations still felt fresh, and the house still smelled kind of like Ikea furniture, and definitely less like sweat and vomit than it would later. The people on my house committee were so warm. I never felt lonely, but I didn’t know anyone. That seems weird to write, but it’s just how I felt. I think it was the fact that all of the people on House Committee were already good friends, and that they were friends with the proctors too. Their natural good humour rubbed off so easily. It felt like the kind of community I’d been promised by brochures about the Maritimes. Disarming. Open. Kind.
In those early days of fall, it still hadn’t snowed. Coming from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, I didn’t really know snow outside of childhood trips to the mountains for skiing and tubing. Those early days of winter were peaceful in the same way as my trips to the mountains. There was still an illusion that I might not need the winter boots my mother told me I would.
And there was a great surprise when my roommate, whom I had never spoken to before (except for six snaps in August), took me to the Sport Chek at the mall and helped me pick a winter coat.
“It hasn’t snowed yet, I don’t need one.”
“The forecast says it’ll snow on Friday.”
“It’s not even October.”
The kitchenette in the house was romantic to me. The burner plates hardly ever worked. There was only one frying pan, and it was almost always dirty when I came to cook. But the friends I made that fall, the best ones, I made through that frying pan. I bought one twelve pound bag of potatoes, and I brought my spice kit from home. I made hash browns from scratch, in the middle of the night, peeling potatoes with two pairs of scissors I found in the drawer. I think one pair was safety scissors. Neither pair were kitchen scissors. I didn’t get a potato peeler until some time later, a gift from my roommate so I’d be saved from the scissors.
There was so much that happened within the walls of my residence. Sometimes, when we walk into an old or interesting building, my mother will ask, “I wonder what these walls would say if they could talk?” I would never want to talk to the walls of my residence, because I don’t think I’d like to know all the gritty details, but there sure would be stories. Maybe I’d ask how the wall on the right side of my dorm room got covered in something sticky all along the bed. Or maybe it’s better that I just chose the left side before my roommate showed up and didn’t wonder too hard. But I loved that building. The hall window looked out over the river, and my room was a haven. By the end of my stay there were more holes in the walls (and the ceiling) and maybe there was a painting on the underside of the desk. Maybe I’d kicked the cover off of the old sprinkler a few times doing one too many handstands and had to put it back with super glue. But there were holes in walls and names scrawled in drawers when I arrived. It was the physical history of the house that I loved. Every name and date, every pin hole and loose sprinkler cover.
I am so deeply nostalgic about that first fall in New Brunswick. So many trees with actual leaves and not needles! And so many kind people. The proctor who took me to the market the first time. My lovely, gentle roommate. My House Committee, my downstairs neighbours. The edges of those memories are sepia-tinted, mirroring the colours in those beautiful autumn leaves.
I’m glad to see those leaves again, and I am a little sad that I won’t be seeing them from my room in residence. Writing this makes me feel closer to that first fall, and I like revelling a little bit in that nostalgia. Is this your first fall in the Maritimes? Remember the leaves. Remember the people. It’s different this fall, but it’s still precious.