Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Take Another Little Piece of My Heart

As I recently explained to someone, grief sneaks up on me when I least expect it. To wit, the infuriating decision by the University of Kentucky to level several older dorms, although I'm kind of annoyed by the breadcrumb that they left Patterson Hall intact. The general air is, "Sure, we're plowing down four other buildings, including two of architectural and historical significance, but we're keeping Patterson Hall. Ain't that nice of us?


Mom had a great time in college. She went to a lot of dances and parties, she was in a sorority, she took a swan-dive off the top bunk in her room in Keeneland Hall and permanently screwed up her back by herniating a disc. There are pictures of her with her friends, swilling illicit Chianti from its straw-covered bottle, in that room in Keeneland. She'd wanted me to live there, but alas: I have had respiratory problems since I was an infant, and the older North Campus dorms of her youth were not air-conditioned. Mom was the warning beacon, proclaiming Mother Harvard's progress toward locking the front doors each night; in the 1950s, a girl caught outside when the doors were locked was "campused" for a specified length of time, and her parents notified of the infraction- Mom probably kept more than one girl from departing college prematurely at the insistence of mortified parents.

Top it off with her sorority, Alpha Xi Delta, the oldest sorority at the university, losing its charter several years ago. Mom saw the handwriting on the wall after my negative experience during rush, and a pointed conversation with an associate dean who was one of her pledge sisters; still, she was upset. They were circling the drain, and they folded. (They've recently re-colonized at the school where my best friend was also an Alpha Xi; I entertain a vague hope that perhaps someday they will do the same at my alma mater.)

Keeneland was part of Mom's history. Now that she's gone, it feels like another part of her is about to be destroyed. I understand the march of progress, but a couple of the buildings they're pulling down (Keeneland is not one of them) are landmarks. I remember thinking, years ago, when I visited the University of Tennessee, that they'd overbuilt their parcel so heavily that it was imposing, cold, and uninviting. Kentucky's construction plans engender the same thing. Pretty soon there won't be a blade of grass between the buildings and they'll all be early-millennium generic style. I guess if you want an attractive campus, pay top dollar and go to liberal arts school, right?

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