The folders will be filled and stacked and carried and laid out, one for each seat around the big table. Inside a blue sheet with phone numbers, policies and forms to complete, assignments, a bookmark, a poem. We begin the night with Mary Oliver declaring again, Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life? It is orientation, and around the table everything buzzes. They are here for the first time — excited and nervous, beaming to be seated there, peering at the door. You have earned your place, Amelia tells them. I had never been to college, Irene says. Now I am enrolled for six hours. My office is right down the hall, adds Adrianne. We want you to succeed, I emphasize. Empty pizza boxes at the back of the room. The kids singing songs down the hall. I hold up the books. Plato. Shakespeare. Anne Lamott. I am so excited, someone blurts out. I don’t want to talk over anyone else, says another. The room is too hot, then too cold. The markers are fresh. With seven minutes to go, Amelia says, Stand up! Turn around! Shake it out! And then we settle in before going. Afterwards one then another steps up to say thanks and see you Thursday. And J reaches for my hand. Thank you for making us feel so welcome, she says. And I remember again that’s all that matters.
August 17, 2015