A couple of years ago I started creating quotation images of the Blessed Mother to share on my blog’s Facebook page during the month of May. I’ve been meaning to gather them into one post, and this month’s CWBN blog hop, with a theme of Mary, My Mother, is the perfect occasion for that.
All the photographs are mine, taken with my iPhone.
This was taken at the grotto at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. My oldest child, Emily, graduated in 2013.
This comes from the grotto at the University of Notre Dame. Our middle son, Teddy, graduated in May 2017. Some day I hope I can return to Lourdes to take some pictures of the original grotto. The ones I took with my little Kodak camera in 1984 aren’t up to my current standards. 😉
This statue is in the flowerbed in front of our house. For some reason, my younger kids think that Mary likes to be decorated with lots and lots of handmade rosaries.
We are not parishioners at All Saints, which is the closest church to our home, but we do enjoy walking there. This statue is in their Marian garden right along the walking trail.
Another shot of our statue, which was originally a housewarming gift when we moved into our second home in December 2001.
The picture in this photograph hangs in the art museum on the Notre Dame campus.
Emily gave me this icon for Christmas a couple of years ago. I can’t even describe how much I love it.
We don’t have that sweet little kitten anymore, but the statue was one of the few things that survived our house fire in 2001. It was far enough away from the house not to suffer any damage.
This hangs on a wall in the student center at Notre Dame.
I took this one in the garden of a downtown Dallas church when I was visiting my sister there.
This picture of Lorelei and William was taken in our church basement many years ago when they were participating in a play during the annual Advent Workshop.
Late summer in my garden.
This statue is also located in the art museum at Notre Dame.
The statue of the Blessed Mother at my own parish, Immaculate Conception, relocated from her usual spot for the annual May Crowning.
A detail from another picture from Notre Dame’s museum.
This is another view of the statue in the Marian garden at All Saints.
I love this picture because of the icicles and snow, which I don’t often get a chance to photograph.
Another shot of Notre Dame’s grotto. Don’t miss it if you ever visit the campus.
And finally, one last look at Our Lady of Spring Hill.
I will update this post as I create new images. Do you have any special quotations about Mary that you would suggest?
This post is part of the CWBN Siena Sisters Blog Hop. Please click the image below for more posts about Mary, My Mother.
And if you’ve scrolled down this far, here’s a video version!
We’ve just returned from an epic weekend of graduation festivities as Teddy’s Notre Dame adventure has come to a close. Four years flew by, as they are wont to do when you have kids, and it won’t be long before I’ll be writing a melancholy post about having a child leave the nest for good to start adult life very far away.
But I won’t go there today! This weekend was fun and I didn’t feel melancholy, or too stressed, or anxious, or any other way I expected to feel. And I took lots of pictures!
We (and by “we” I mean me, John, Emily, William, and Lorelei) left Knoxville Thursday night and drove about halfway, stopping in Florence, Kentucky just outside Cincinnati. This enabled us to get a (relatively) early start the next morning and make it to Notre Dame by around three, because Teddy had plans for John and me.
We left the “little people” (which is surely a ridiculous thing to call them at this point) with Emily, who took them out to eat at a conveniently located (actually in the parking lot of the hotel!) Asian restaurant and then to the hotel pool, and headed for campus, where one of Teddy’s favorite political science professors had invited him and other students to attend a Mass and reception. This event was really for kids who were in a program that Teddy was not a part of, but it was lovely to start off the weekend with Mass in one of Notre Dame’s many beautiful residence hall chapels and then to meet some of his professors.
We didn’t get to stay long, though, because we had another event to attend. This one was a party hosted by Scott Malpass, Notre Dame’s CIO, for students in a program he sponsors at the university. These students were allowed to invite some of their friends, which was how we ended up at this utterly amazing party held downtown at Cafe Navarre.
Alcohol of all kinds flowed freely, along with canapes, caviar, a raw bar, a full buffet dinner . . . y’all, it was insane. Many people were having a VERY good time, and I enjoyed the people-watching and the music as well as the food.
Predictably, John and I tired of this before Teddy did, so we left him there and went back to the hotel, to get some sleep before the next full day of activities.
The next morning we were all invited to brunch at someone’s lake house, but I bowed out of that and Teddy took John, Jake, and Jessica (that’s Jake’s girlfriend–they had arrived late the night before and were crashing with Teddy at the house where he lived off campus with several friends). The rest of us drove over to campus because Lorelei and William had never seen the place and I wanted to show them a couple of things.
We started at the Grotto, then walked up to the Basilica, made sure we saw the Golden Dome, and stopped by Teddy’s residence hall, Saint Edward’s (called Steds by the boys, and the oldest one on campus). Then we took a short walk by one of the lakes. Notre Dame’s campus is huge, so if you are ever up that way and have limited time to spend, those are the sights I recommend you see. Of course, I took some pictures:
Then it was back to the hotel to change clothes and meet up with the rest of our people and time for the serious stuff to begin.
First up was the Political Science Senior Recognition Ceremony. Teddy is a Business School grad, but he double-majored in Finance and Poli Sci. We enjoyed this relatively short and low-key ceremony, where we were encouraged to clap and walk down as close as we could get to take pictures.
From here we walked straight across the parking lot to the Joyce Center, where so many of the events that have made up our Notre Dame experiences have taken place. We were attending the Baccalaureate Mass in the Purcell Pavilion, and we wanted to get there early enough to find a seat and avoid being placed in the overflow room.
We sat very high in the arena and had an hour to wait for Mass to begin. (There was a LOT of sitting and a LOT of waiting over this weekend, y’all!) There was music to make it more bearable–throughout the weekend the musicians were amazing and added so much to the experience.
There’s something special about attending Mass with thousands of other people. And, as always, we ended by singing the Alma Mater. I’ve said this before, but anyone you’ve ever heard complaining about Notre Dame’s lack of Catholic identity can’t have ever been there.
Next we attended a much-anticipated event: a catered dinner in the vacant lot across from the row of house where Teddy and 15 of his friends spent their Senior year. This event was planned by one of the mothers and many other families pitched in to help with the arrangements. I’ve met some of the mothers before, and it was great to get to see them again.
All the family joined us for this celebration, as well as my friend Mary Jo, who was in town visiting family. It was certainly a highlight of the weekend to catch up with her, and she came back to the hotel with us when the kids grew weary and wanted to leave (we left John and Jake and Jessica there with Teddy and they continued to have a great time!).
The threat of bad weather hung over the entire weekend, and it was raining pretty hard when we left the party (thankfully we had sprung for tents!). The administration decided to delay the start time of the commencement ceremony the next morning, for which we were very grateful!
Because of tight security, we needed to arrive around 8 a.m. and wait in a VERY long line (it moved pretty quickly, though). There were many items we were not allowed to bring inside, including umbrellas–but rain ponchos were provided! (It sprinkled at one point for maybe five minutes.) Once inside and seated we had a long wait ahead but it wasn’t so bad as there was music and several screens with pictures of the graduates lining up outside the stadium.
As is customary, the ceremony began with the academic procession, which took awhile as there were 2,081 graduates plus the faculty who had to get to their seats. Here is a picture showing the Business School candidates starting to come in.
The ceremony followed the usual predictable format for such events. If you’ve ever been to one you don’t need a description. I came expecting to be bored, to be honest. But I was wrong–very wrong–and this turned out to be a highlight of the weekend for all of us.
It started with the introduction of Vice-President Pence, who was the Commencement speaker. Around 100 kids stood up and quietly left the stadium as part of a previously planned protest. This wasn’t a surprise to many people, including the administration, who had already indicated there would be no repercussions for those who chose to participate, but it was a surprise to me!
Before you ask, no, Teddy did not walk out. And while I don’t have any issue with peaceful protests, I have a feeling Mr. Pence (who graciously took no notice of the protest and gave a largely unobjectionable, if unremarkable, speech) was more impacted by the other two speeches we heard than by the walkout.
The valedictory address was amazing. What kind of bravery must it take for a 22-year-old to stand on the same stage with the man who may well be President one day and say, “Our generation must stand against the scapegoating of Muslims. Our concern for freedom of religion must mean freedom for all religions, not just our own, otherwise none of us is free. . . . If we are going to build walls between American students and international students, then I am skewered on the fence . . . Our mission calls us to act on behalf of justice. It is precisely in response to the suffering of Syrian refugees, fleeing war, that the arms of Jesus outstretched on God Quad call for a courageous response.”
And then there were the words of Laetare medal winner Father Greg Boyle (who is a Jesuit so I already had a soft spot in my heart for him): “You go from here to dismantle the barriers that exclude. And there’s only one way to do that: and that is to go where the joy is, which is at the margins, for if you stand at the margins, that’s the only way they’ll get erased, and you stand with the poor, and the powerless and the voiceless. You stand with those whose dignity has been denied, and you stand with those whose burdens are more than they can bear, and you will go from here and have this exquisite privilege once in a while to be able to stand with the easily despised and the readily left out, with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop, and with the disposable, so the day will come when we stop throwing people away.”
We all felt blessed to have had the opportunity to hear such wisdom, and that’s what I am still thinking about days later.
One unfortunate consequence of the rain delay is that there was no time for lunch before the next and thankfully last event: the Mendoza College of Business Diploma Ceremony, otherwise known as the ceremony that wouldn’t end.
Y’all, this is the one where they call out the names. I don’t know how many names there were but it was a lot. We were there for an hour waiting for it to begin on extremely uncomfortable bleachers, and then I think it was at least 2.5 hours before Teddy’s name was called and there were about an hour’s worth left to go.
I felt rude but I couldn’t stand it. I took Lorelei and William out and went to the student center and got them snacks and drinks. Then I went back inside to watch Teddy walk out and then thank God in Heaven it was over and time to take pictures!
Teddy (and I) would have appreciated a more scenic background but we were pressed for time and there were members of our party for whom walking long distances is an issue. Jake was like, “Here’s a nice tree. Stand in front of it,” and we got the whole thing done in maybe five minutes.
And now, AT LAST, it was dinner time!
Y’all have heard of Studebakers, right? My Uncle Charlie had one MANY years ago, as I recall. Well, they were once manufactured in South Bend, and the guy who founded the company lived in this 40 room mansion.
Only now it’s a restaurant–Tippecanoe Place–and I hope y’all will indulge me because I just couldn’t stop taking pictures:
I didn’t get any interior pictures except for the group shot below because it just seemed kind of awkward but it was as beautiful as you might imagine–grand staircases, marble fireplaces, fancy woodwork everywhere. And the food largely lived up to the surroundings, as did the service. It was the perfect special spot to end our celebration.
Teddy (who I should tell you goes by Theo everywhere other than with family and old friends) graduated summa cum laude. He received the Raymond P. Kent award for outstanding work in Finance courses. He’s had a job lined up for months and will be heading to San Francisco in July to start work as an investment banking analyst. As this chapter closes, a new adventure is just beginning for him.
Our Notre Dame adventure is about to come to a close. The day this is published, we will be in South Bend for Teddy’s graduation, and I’m sure there will be stories and adventures to share!
But before that, let’s go back to last February, to Junior Parents’ Weekend, which for some reason I did not write up at the time.
Many colleges have special weekends each year for families. Spring Hill did, and I attended four Family Weekends, bringing along various family members each time. Because Emily did not have a car and we had to pick her up for every vacation, our visits to Mobile were quite frequent, and we grew very familiar with and fond of the city.
Our Notre Dame experience has been different. In contrast to the over 20 times one or the other of both of us drove back and forth to Mobile, we’ve been to Notre Dame maybe six times.
So JPW was a big deal. It started off rockily, as we were a little late to the big dinner gathering Teddy’s friends and their families–three tables full of them, with Italian food served family style.
Afterwards, we headed to the Joyce Center for the Opening Gala, but we only milled around there for a bit because we were tired.
The next morning we attended the Open House at the Business School (Teddy has double-majored in Political Science and Finance).
We spent the rest of the day walking around campus and seeing sights.
We’ve visited Notre Dame in summer, fall, and spring, and for this winter visit I was hoping to see some snow, but I suppose I should be grateful that it was unseasonably mild as you can see.
Notre Dame boasts its own art museum, the Snite Museum of Art. We thought we were going in for a quick look but remained for some time, impressed by the size and quality of the collection.
Of course, I couldn’t pass up the chance to walk around one of the lakes with Teddy.
There’s no such thing as a special weekend at a Catholic college without a special Mass, so next we headed back to the Joyce Center for Saturday evening services.
Then it was just a short trip to another area of the building for the President’s Dinner. Check out the Irish detailing on the dessert below!
The REAL fun happened after the dinner and the speeches, when Teddy and a group of his friends hosted a party for us at one of their off-campus residences. Some of dads in particular had a lot of fun reliving their misspent youths. There was certainly much alcohol, and beer pong was played, but what I enjoyed much was talking to Teddy’s friends and renewing friendship with some of the moms I had met on my last visit.
It was a LATE night, and then there was brunch in the morning followed by the long drive home. I can’t believe that it was more than a year ago already, but what is even more unbelievable is that Teddy’s four years at Notre Dame have gone by so quickly.
I told y’all we’ve been traveling a lot lately–one trip each month since May–and last weekend was our October trip. Thanks to the generosity of one of my oldest and dearest friends, we had tickets to the Notre Dame vs. USC game, so we headed up for some football and a visit with Teddy, who is a Junior now.
This was my third visit to Notre Dame–John and I brought Teddy up to begin his college career, and then I returned that Spring for Moms’ Weekend. John was the one who drove him up to see the campus when he was in high school, and he’s been up briefly to pick him up a few times, but since Teddy has a car now we hadn’t had any reason to visit since his first year.
We left on Friday with the idea of arriving early. Can I laugh at our hopeful plans? First we couldn’t even make it out of Knoxville for one reason or another until almost two hours after we left our house. Then en route we had to sit unmoving for 1.5 hours because of a wreck that shut down the bridge over the Ohio River. So it was after 9 p.m. when we finally arrived. We blundered about a bit because I was driving and I can’t see so well in the dark until we were able to find the parking lot where Teddy wanted to meet us so we could have a late dinner together.
I got my hugs, which is my favorite part, and we had a good time talking over supper. Teddy probably would have been good to hang out some more but we are old and tired and still had to get to our hotel (12 miles away because football).
The football game was a night game, with kickoff at 7:30 p.m., so I asked Teddy what time we would need to arrive at the game. He said tailgating started by noon (actually, it starts even earlier!). I asked who was having a tailgate? “Everyone,” he answered. I asked which ones we were going to, and he replied, “All of them.”
Well, that turned out to be an exaggeration, but it was still pretty amazing. We made a trip to the bookstore first–which was predictably a zoo, but I needed a sweatshirt–and then spent about five hours taking in the spectacle that is Notre Dame tailgating.
The pictures really don’t give a sense of the full scope of the thing, with an enormous parking lot pretty much completely given over to revelry. Tents, televisions, generators, tiki bars, rows and rows of porta-potties, food of all kinds (we sampled brats, burgers, and burritos, to name just a few), and naturally freely-flowing alcohol (insert Irish stereotype here).
I’m not a seasoned tailgater, so perhaps the above isn’t so unusual, but there were definitely some uniquely Notre Dame touches:
The tents we visited were hosted by parents of Teddy’s friends, many of whom attend all the home games. It was good to meet them, and also to talk to Teddy’s friends and hear them say nice things about him. And to see him get irritated when they heard us calling him Teddy instead of Theo (his preference) and tried to follow suit.
We were ready to head to the stadium before Teddy was, him having no interest in the pre-game activities. So around 6:30 we left the party and headed over. To me it was a thrill just to enter the stadium. Not that anything can top Neyland Stadium here in Knoxville, but there’s just something about Notre Dame football.
It was sunset when we arrived, and not too cold yet, but that was soon to change.
We were pleased with our seats–we had a good view of the field and of the famous Touchdown Jesus.
All colleges have special traditions and ways of doing things. Notre Dame may have more than most. Of course I appreciated that when the players run out onto the field they all fall to their knees at the end of the field and pray before the game begins. Yet there was no invocation before the game–perhaps that’s a Southern thing? Every time they announced their fight song they let us know that it’s the best one ever (I forget the exact words they use but the phrase is always the same). In general, Notre Dame fans and for that matter their alumni seem more insanely devoted than people from other schools.
Anyway, we enjoyed the new experience–and the win–but not the rapidly falling temperature; it was 37 degrees by the time the game was over and we went to find Teddy. There was still some tailgating going on–one of our hosts sang an Irish tune for us before we headed back to our car. Thankfully, Teddy lives off campus just a short walk away, and was able to get us free parking there; non-residents normally pay $35 on game days.
The next morning we drove back to campus to hang out with Teddy for a little while, which gave me an opportunity to take some Fall pictures:
We ended up at the Grotto to say a prayer before heading back to Knoxville.
There were no blocked bridges on the way home, thankfully.
We will visit Notre Dame again for Junior Parents’ Weekend in February, after which you will likely be seeing some pictures of a snow-covered campus!
This cemetery post is a little different, because it’s not a Knoxville cemetery we are talking about. Teddy’s friends thought he was kidding when he told them that my favorite site on the tour he gave me when I visited him at school was the graveyard at the gates, but you know me well enough by now to understand.
It was the first time I’d visited and out-of-town cemetery since I started writing about them, and I noticed things that probably seem obvious when you think about it, except I never thought about it before.
What struck me first were the names. Walking through a graveyard in Knoxville is like looking through the phone book (back when we used phone books!). The names are familiar. Our schools and roads are named after the folks in our graveyards. We go to school with their descendants. We KNOW those people, in a sense.
It’s not the same when you are in another state. I saw many names I had never even heard of before, names that left us chuckling sometimes because they were long ethnic names that we couldn’t begin to pronounce.
It makes sense, if you think about it. People came to this country, settled down somewhere, started families, and eventually had descendants bearing their name. At the moment, there are no Shollys in any graveyard in Knoxville. (Pennsylvania is full of them.) A couple of hundred years from now, who knows?
Another difference is a matter of topography–it’s FLAT up there. Our small graveyards are sometimes flat, but a big one like this one would be having a few rolling hills!
Notice, too, that the stones are closer together than what you’ve seen in the pictures I usually post here, and that there seems to be more variation in the shape and style of the stones.
That’s another difference, too–the naming of children and grandchildren–who are NOT buried there, lest you misunderstand–on a married couple’s stone. I found that odd but endearing: it shows what these people are most proud of and what they want to be remembered for.
One thing that wasn’t different: There are always the babies. 🙁
And more than the usual array of unusual, moving, and interesting epitaphs.
There are some mausoleums here as well, added recently.
And those ethnic Catholic folk weren’t the first people in these parts:
So we are walking along, and I’m lecturing Teddy about all the stuff I’ve written up above about the unfamiliar names and stuff, when I spotted this:
There’s a sad story behind this one, which I just learned today as I did my research for this post.
Meghan was a Notre Dame swimmer, a freshman, who died when the team bus overturned during a snowstorm, only a couple of miles away from the school. I wanted to be able to find a relationship between us, and spent a couple of hours falling down one of those rabbit holes that are surely familiar to any of you who do genealogical research. It was interesting for sure, but if my guess (and it’s definitely a guess) is correct, her family is descended from Christopher Beeler, not Ulrich, so if we are related at all the connection is back in Germany over 400 years ago.
Still, it was a reminder of the surprises in every cemetery, and the stories behind every stone.
Teddy’s first year at Notre Dame is almost over. He will be home for the summer in less than a month, and back to eating us out of house and home once more.
After we dropped him off, we didn’t hear much from him for a long time. It was a far cry from the frequent tearful phone calls I remember making home the first few weeks after I started college, which settled to weekly–and tear free–eventually, or even the daily contact I had with Emily when she was at Spring Hill via text, email, and instant message. Teddy texted a few times–mostly when he had questions about something–and I didn’t call him either, giving him time to settle in and get used to being on his own. He came home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and dropped by to and from his Spring Break trip to Florida. He’s always willing to spend his first hour or so back home talking to me and answering my questions, but after that he’s off doing his own thing.
But I got a real treat last weekend! St. Edward’s Hall (Steds is what the boys call it) hosted a Mothers’ Weekend and I drove up to spend the weekend with Teddy. Yes, I did, all by myself–about an eight hour drive not counting stops. Of course it poured down rain, the kind of rain you can’t see to drive through, for the first several hours (why did it have to do that while I was driving in my own hilly state and not where it was flat?) but after that it was smooth sailing, especially since I made sure both ways to time things so I would not be driving in the dark (because I’m not as young as I once was!).
I made it to South Bend right around six and after I checked into my hotel I picked Teddy up and we went for pizza (it being Friday, and Lent, and South Bend not being exactly a place I’d expect to specialize in seafood) and then checked out the weekend’s first event–hors d’ouevres at the Eck Visitors Center. This was my first chance to meet Teddy’s friends, including the three young men with whom he will be living next year. They had just chosen their rooms the night before, and will be living in a quad on the fourth floor of St. Ed’s (most people stay in the same dorm all four years)–room 420 to be precise, and if you don’t know why they think that’s a hoot, your teenager can probably tell you.
Would y’all just LOOK at my son? When he came home looking like that I thought maybe that was just the new thing, but then I saw all the other boys, who all look like the boys pictured above, and it became clear that Teddy is the only one doing this particular thing.
Anyway, I was tired so I had Teddy drive me back to my hotel so I wouldn’t have to drive in the dark (oh how I love love love staying in a hotel all by myself!) and we arranged for him to pick me up the next morning, when we were all scheduled to attend brunch at South Dining Hall.
After brunch, we had a free day. I didn’t get to see nearly all the campus when we dropped Teddy off. Y’all, the place is enormous. And it was hot then, and the weekend was packed with required events. (Plus I have more energy now but more on that later.) So we decided to spend the day exploring the campus. It was a glorious day for it–in the upper forties and sunny. Also have I mentioned it’s flat up there? I can walk for hours under those circumstances and I did. We started around noon and kept going until after four. Teddy calculated we walked around five miles and we both even got a little sunburned! Here are some of the sights we enjoyed. Starting with this, even though it isn’t where we started, because it’s what everyone wants to see, right? Here’s a nice shot that gets the Basilica in there too. We actually started out in the bookstore, where this was only one of many children’s books designed to indoctrinate them early! Seriously, it is a really nice (and super expensive) bookstore. After that, Teddy pretty much walked me all the way around the campus, including quick trips inside the library and the student center. I showed y’all Touchdown Jesus last time I wrote about Notre Dame. This guy they call First Down Moses. Did y’all know that Notre Dame du Lac is the school’s official name? And that two lakes sit right next to it? Last time John and I walked around the smaller lake, and this time Teddy and I walked around the other one.
Can’t go to Notre Dame without stopping to pray at the Grotto. There was a wedding party there posing for pictures, and then a rival lacrosse team stopping to pray together after their game.
The last thing we went to see, and my favorite thing since y’all already know I’m weird that way, was the enormous cemetery which is practically at the front door of the place. But that’s going to get a post to itself. 🙂
So moving right along, I barely had time to get back to the hotel and shower and change for the big evening event at the Jordan Hall of Science. We had hors d’oeuvres and drinks, heard about the latest renovations to St. Ed’s, attempted (Teddy and I did not attempt this seriously) to learn how to two step and line dance, and ate dinner. We sat with Teddy’s new roommates and their mothers, and it was a real treat to get to meet them and some of the mothers of Teddy’s other friends. We went back to the dorm afterwards and “chilled” a little longer but I didn’t stay too long because I didn’t want to be tired the next day for the long drive home.
The grand finale to the weekend was Mass on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. (super early for these boys who are used to Mass at 10 p.m.!) held in the Chapel of Sts. Edward and John, which just happens to be at the end of the hallway where Teddy currently lives. If y’all are picturing some folding chairs and a wooden altar with a cross sitting on it, you might want to think again.
Did I mention that about 100 mothers came for the weekend (and there are around 150 boys in the dorm)? So all the seats were full and the boys sat on the floor. I’ve heard people say that Notre Dame isn’t authentically Catholic and I can only assume that those people have never been there. Father Ralph (who lives right there in the hall) started his homily with these beautiful words of St. Augustine: “You gleamed and shone, and chased away my blindness. You breathed fragrant odors and I drew in my breath; and now I pant for you. I tasted, and now I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.” And I wish I had taped those boys belting out “Wade in the Water” at the end of Mass!
Then it was time to go home, but not so hard to leave knowing how soon I will be seeing Teddy again. And it was great to see how at home he is and how much fun he is having, and to be able to picture him there with his friends.
Today I watched my first Notre Dame football game as the parent of a student. After all, I’m “part of the Notre Dame family now,” (as we were reminded MANY times during last weekend’s orientation events).
(Fortunately, the Notre Dame game was at 3:30 and the University of Tennessee game didn’t start until 6:00. My next door neighbor, a Notre Dame alumna, couldn’t understand why there would be any conflict for me if they aired at the same time! But I digress.)
I’ve grown up hearing about Notre Dame, which was always presented as the pinnacle for a Catholic student, and at one point I assumed I would go there. Then I read the Barron’s Guide which stated that there was nothing to do there in the dead of winter but stay on campus and drink beer. [edit: I am told this is accurate.] That probably sounds attractive to many high school students, but I was turned off and did not even apply.
Of course, now I’ve seen the place, and realize that as big and wonderful as the campus is, whether there is anything to do in South Bend is immaterial. I don’t have any regrets because I loved Georgetown, but I am very excited for Teddy and the adventures he is going to have.
The mystique surrounding Notre Dame is unbelievable. I don’t think there is anywhere I could have announced that Teddy had chosen that would have incited a more enthusiastic response. I had not realized myself until visiting the place just how attending a Catholic high school inculcates you with a familiarity with and reverence for the place. Teddy played high school football for the Knoxville Catholic Irish (and just last weekend, KCHS played the Chattanooga Notre Dame High School’s Irish!). The Notre Dame leprechaun was painted in the middle of the old Catholic High’s floor. Teddy wore gold and blue for most of his football career. We played the Notre Dame fight song at games when I was in high school. All the sports memorabilia that I saw at Notre Dame’s Joyce Center at the Purcell Pavilion looked eerily familiar. I told Teddy that all his high school sporting attire and t-shirts are going to fit right in (a good thing, too, since that’s most of his wardrobe).
Notre Dame sets out to cultivate that mystique and to build loyalty from the moment you arrive with your kid. Once we were allowed on campus and directed to the back entrance to Teddy’s hall (St. Edward’s, the oldest one, built in 1882), we were met by an enthusiastic bunch of identically-dressed, cheering young men who surrounded our car, washed our windshield, and whisked Teddy and all his belongings upstairs in two minutes or less.
As the weekend went on, we were fed every meal (for free!) in the campus dining halls (one of which features a fireplace big enough to roast a cow in and a mural of the Last Supper on the wall), offered the opportunity to watch Rudy (we were too tired), given ample time to walk around campus to absorb the iconic atmosphere, and welcomed officially via orientation events that went on until Sunday afternoon.
Saturday morning we were invited to meet with the rector and the rest of the residence hall staff in the hall chapel. Yes, EVERY hall has its own chapel and daily Mass at 10 p.m. I’m told that it’s really something to walk around campus on Sunday evenings and hearing the singing coming out of each hall. I’m not sure what I had envisioned when I pictured a hall chapel, but it wasn’t this.
We were welcomed, we were instructed, we were reassured about the safety and welfare of our sons. Later in the afternoon we attended a welcome at the Purcell Center for the freshman and then a special session for parents while students were meeting their first year advisers. That was the first time we heard “You are part of the Notre Dame family now” but it wasn’t the last. We heard from the President of the University, the Dean of First Year Studies, and others, before adjourning to explore the many course offerings in the different academic buildings–making John and me wish we could go back to school and major in more subjects!
We had plenty of time for exploration while Teddy was busy setting up his room and doing his own thing. We spent hours in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We walked around one of the two lakes. We visited the grotto. Teddy was only with us part of the time but he was doing his own exploring and said that his feet hurt. Seriously, how even an in-shape young person can handle all the walking necessary in that enormous place (no cars, y’all!) is beyond me.
On our last morning we went to the Purcell Pavilion again for a Mass celebrated by the President of the University. (Notre Dame’s Catholic identity, by the way, was very much in evidence throughout the entire weekend.) Mass was followed by a box lunch in our seats, during which Teddy joined us so that we could experience the last event together.
This was “The Spirit of Notre Dame,” and there was no doubt that it had been carefully orchestrated to make us feel part of that “Notre Dame family” and to send us off on a high note. It featured words of welcome from the Mayor of South Bend, the athletic director, the football coach, and the women’s basketball coach, followed by musical performances from the all-male Glee Club, a mixed ensemble, and the Notre Dame Band. Notre Dame has a lot of traditional songs apparently, and we heard them all. We sang the Alma Mater, and the whole thing culminated with “the moment we’d all been waiting for” (seriously, they said that, and by then it was pretty much true): the Notre Dame Fight Song.
I had never visited Notre Dame before and did not know what to expect, but to say I was impressed by the program and the place is to understate my reaction. I am very excited for Teddy, and I can’t wait to go back and visit again.
“Is there anything to eat?”
I think that’s maybe what I’ll miss the most–my hungry boy saying those words to me, in person or on the phone, usually multiple times on any given day. I almost cried this weekend watching him fight his way through the mob in the cafeteria, trying to fill up his plate with meat. I wished he could just sit down somewhere and wait while I sauteed a pan of boneless chicken tenders, just the way he likes them.
We left him at Notre Dame yesterday, about to begin his big adventure. I’m not worried about him. I’ve been through four years of college with one kid already and I know we will all be okay. But I also know that things will never be the same. Teddy is in many ways a closed book to me, with his own thoughts and his own life that he does not share. But he still relies on me for certain things, and that is going to change.
When he was little, when he needed me, he would say, “Hold mine hand.” He didn’t want to hold hands for long, just for a few seconds, until he felt better. He’s always been good at letting go. But he let me hold his hand this weekend, and he didn’t make a fuss when I played with his beautiful, thick, too-long hair. He hugged me good-bye, and when I cried he hugged me again.
I was the one to let go, to say good-bye and turn and walk away. One morning you go to a hospital, and you leave with a baby. Eighteen years later, you go to a college, and leave without one.
Maybe only a mother can look at a six foot 260-lb. man and see her baby. But I do.
UPDATE: This morning Teddy left to begin his Senior year at Notre Dame. The good-byes definitely get easier, but the homecomings are no less exciting! As I expected when I wrote this, we have seen less and less of Teddy. He came home that first summer, but worked in Chicago the following summer and was in in Stamford, Connecticut this summer. His end-of-summer visit home this year was interrupted by trips to New York City and San Francisco for job interviews. But he still likes me to feed him when he is home, and I find he still depends on us for help with a few things, even as he heads toward becoming a full-fledged adult.
UPDATE PART II: Teddy graduated in May 2017 and moved to San Francisco in July.