I write on a lovely October day, just back from walking William the dog in Forest Park, two miles from the Springfield College campus. We head there almost every day, and this morning the glinting shafts of sunlight illuminated the autumn woods in a gorgeous way. A light breeze dislodged some golden leaves that came sailing down to earth in graceful arcs.
I thought back to mid-May—nature’s first green—when the swelling buds burst into supple leaves with dangling catkins.
It was time for graduation, an event I have come to love at Springfield College. I revel in the ritual, every pomp, every circumstance, the turning of the tassel, the flinging of the mortarboards, the inevitable speech about commencement being both an end and a beginning. It’s a cliché, and I rail against clichés, but I’m a sucker for that one. Gets me every time.
It is hard to say goodbye to these students—Springfield College students. There is just something about them, year after year after year. We draw people with good hearts. People who seek a better world, and are willing to sweat for it. You can’t help getting close. They have allowed me to hold fast to hope. They have helped my constitutional optimism win its daily battle with my constitutional fatalism.
This year there was no graduation.
It was the time of coronavirus.
2020—which sounds like perfect
vision—has been a year of blinding loss.
We lost the mighty John Lewis, who encouraged us to get into “good trouble.” We lost the seemingly indomitable Ruth Bader Ginsburg, crusader for gender
I cringed at the loss of my boyhood hero, Tom Seaver, one-time star for the Mets. When I was 8, my father took me to Game 4 of the 1969 World Series to see him pitch. We sat in the top row of Shea Stadium, jam-packed with 57,000 fans. It was by far the biggest gathering of humanity I had ever seen.
As I write, our country has lost almost four times that many to COVID-19. By the time you read in December, it might be five times.
There was the horror of the 8 minutes and 46 seconds that snuffed out the life of George Floyd. The barging in on Breonna Taylor, a noble life cut down. And sweet Elijah McClain, the vegetarian who wouldn’t kill a fly, the one who spent his lunch break playing violin for shelter animals.
Right here at Springfield College, we lost Dennis Gildea, the man who designed the communications/sports journalism major, and hired me to start on Day One in 1999.
Our current seniors were mostly born that year. It was the last year of the last century, a year of fears surrounding something called Y2K. 1999 was the beginning of their journey, and in a sense, the beginning of mine, arriving at Alden Street at age 38.
It is a fascinating place to age. Each year, I get older, surrounded by people 18-22. And not just any 18-22: Springfield College 18-22. My beard gets grayer, my scalp more visible. They go to the gym.
At year’s end, God willing, I’ll turn 60.
I have loved my time at Springfield College. The weeks have flown. I have never concerned myself with “Hump Day” or “TGIF,” never wanted to wish precious time away.
Still, I won’t grieve as we turn the calendar page. 2021 will have a huge amount of hard, but at this point we are scheduled to have two graduations.
The miracle of green.
A slew of new beginnings.
Mortar boards flying all over the place.