As the campus quiets down

"I love the traditional post-finals Northampton trip!" I said to my friends as we climbed into Tommy's car.

"Since when is this tradition?" asked Evan.

"Since now."

Winter break always seems to creep up on me.  You'd think that I'd have the whole "midterms, class, finals, break" thing under control by now, but every year, I get so wrapped up in finals week that I don't even see break coming until the last test timer buzzes or my last essay's handed in.  As campus quiets down and I stop stressing about memorizing music theory or assembling my final multimedia journalism project, the realization dawns that in just a couple days' time, the distance between my college friends and I will go from 2 miles to 200.

This finals week has been a tough one;  somewhere right between writing an essay and starting another one, Beatrice, my laptop, finally succumbed to what the repair people tell me was water damage that reared its ugly, warranty-voiding head at the least convenient time of the year.  Still, with the help of study guide printouts, the library computers (that all have Adobe Creative Suite on them! Who knew?), and my wonderful, laptop-loaning boyfriend, I made it through finals week without freaking out too, too much.  As soon as it was over, though, I broke free from the halls of my Goessmann 20 exam and headed to my friends' house in Rolling Green.  The night, which was spent with Evan's guitar and Hershey's bars, was when the Northampton trip was proposed.

Even if my friends hadn't recognized it as such, the finals week trip to the neighboring town is, essentially, tradition; since freshman year, at least a handful of my friends and I have made our way into NoHo for some panicked holiday shopping around this time.  It's a gift trip, some final hangout time, and nostalgia fuel for those snowy days inside during the upcoming break all at once.

After roaming through a few stores in Thornes and making the obligatory stop at Faces, my friends turned their sights toward Turn It Up!, a neat little record store down a flight of stairs on Pleasant Street. 

I'm always a little surprised by the frequency with which I find myself gazing at rows upon rows of records while at school, considering I don't currently have, nor do I intend on acquiring, a record player of my own.  Still, the kids I spend my time with are more likely to ask if you want to see their extensive vinyl collections without any hint of irony than anyone else I've met.  They've even sold me on a handful of record purchases of my own, a small pile of vinyls that inevitably found a home in their living room.

While Tommy, Evan and Kayla looked at records and some cheap movies on VHS, Sabrina and I paced through the aisles, waiting for our friends to finish combing the crates and crates of music.  Sabrina disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a bag.

"I bought this just because we've been here so long," she said, pulling out a record, "It's whatever they were just playing in here."

40 minutes, several records, and one too many Boz Scaggs jokes later, my friends finally paid and headed out, content with their personal purchases and Christmas gifts.

The next, and final, time I saw them before break was at so-called Family Dinner at Franklin dining commons on Friday. I'm not sure exactly when in the three years of friendship "dinner" acquired the modifier, but the mass Family Dinner text is the only one nobody can ignore.  Now that most of my friends live off-campus, I'm used to lunches in my room or quick dinners at the DC between class and homework.  When it's Family Dinner, though, I can expect to be sitting at one of four round, campus-side tables at Franklin for at least an hour and a half. 

Tomorrow, I head off to my real family in New Jersey bright and early, and I can't say I don't look forward to a break with no early discussions, no Moodle worksheets to complete, and no strict schedule to adhere to.   Still, I'm going to miss all of the many people who make my college experience exactly that: an experience.