Monday, November 28, 2005

Putting up Christmas lights

On Monday evenings I hold ‘office hours’ in my apartment, from six to nine. Unlike dinners, study break hours, and distributing candy during fire alarm evacuations this has yet to become an institution. I have learned that such things take time. But it does get me out of the office at 6 PM rather than nine or ten, which may not be all that bad. Since I only had one customer, there was time to cook dinner and put of Christmas lights, Natural trees are not permitted and my apartment is not really big enough for an artificial one – and where would I store it the rest of the year. My surrogate ‘Christmas tree’ is a Sri Lankan ceremonial oil lamp which I keep festooned with lights throughout the year, turning them on when evening visitors come. Tonight, I added strings of white lights – my favorite – over the Angkor Wat rubbing and the window. Three electric candles adorn my kitchen window sill. I am not much into the material side of Christmas. The concept of ‘black Friday’ makes me a bit ill. But I have always enjoyed lights and still do. And when students come by they will be able to anticipate ‘going home,’ and important part of University life which helps them to survive the end-of-semester rigors of final papers, presentations and examinations.

I have been reading Tom Wolff’s I am Charlotte Simmons, which, as I mentioned in a previous Blog, my father loaned me. I am at the point in the novel where she is going home after a fall semester in which, in her naiveté, she experienced the worst of fraternity life and male callousness. Like many students, she is struggling with the problem of what to tell her parents, who now seem to inhabit a different world. She is disillusioned, frightened and depressed. I don’t yet know how things will turn out for Charlotte.

For virtually all university students there comes a time when ‘home’ is no longer a place of safety and refuge. It is simply a familiar place to visit as they move to new realities with which they must cope on their own. Often this happens shortly after graduation but the process of transition begins sooner. Facilitating this process is, of course, one reason parents send their children to university. But that does not necessarily make it easier for them to accept.

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