I’ve probably walked down Perimeter Drive ten thousand times or more. Grabbing a coffee before class at the University Union, cramming for finals on the lawn or library, meeting a friend from the dorms to play early morning tennis, dodging skateboards and mountain bikes, shouting, “Hey! Are you going to the Sig Ep party tomorrow?” to friends passing by. My Converse, Cal Poly hooded sweatshirt, a backpack, and one of the first Nokia cell phones to hit mass production, was how I walked. It was how everyone else at Cal Poly SLO walked.
Thirteen years later I was back on campus walking down Perimeter Drive, breathing in the intoxicating Central Coast smell of eucalyptus, pine trees and ocean air. I was still in Converse. My Nokia obviously changed to a smartphone, and my backpack made the drastic transformation into a diaper bag. My shoutouts about college parties and early morning tennis, turned into, “No I can’t carry you….Yes, we are almost there….Stop whining….Where did I put the Sofie Giraffe?……” This is NOT how everyone else at Cal Poly SLO walked.
My husband (who also went to Cal Poly) and I were on a mini vacation to our old stomping grounds. This time we took our “Future Cal Poly students,” a three year old and a four month old. We parked the car, loaded up the stroller, and began our oh-so-familiar walk around campus, only I felt oh-so-out-of-place. In a sea of students wearing backpacks, hooded sweatshirts, and fresh glowing faces, I pushed a stroller and tried to convince a three year old we were at the best place ever, the place where mommy and daddy met, blah, blah, blah.
“Can you carry me? My feet hurt. My sandals are pinching me. Where are we going? Can I have a snack…”
Students (who I’m pretty sure were born close to the year I started college) smiled and kept on walking. No interaction, and certainly no college party invites. Let me be clear….not that I was hoping for one….of course that ship sailed way, way beyond the sunset.
We walked through the architecture building and the baby began to fuss.
“Huh, is that a crying baby?” I heard a student say from inside her lab room. We continued to walk and fuss. One student looked up frustrated from his exam desk. Sorry! We left the building and found a place on the lawn to get the baby out of her car seat. Students all around us were studying, napping, socializing, eating. Us? We goldfished. We changed a diaper.
The sun began to set over campus casting beautiful orange light against the mountains and classroom building windows. Thirteen years after leaving Perimeter Drive, I still knew that being a student at Cal Poly was one of the best and easiest decisions I’ve made. “Hey! I just made a petite Syrah, Syrah blend in 305,” an excited student shouted to her passerby. (Cal Poly has a viticulture wines major). To tune out the three year old whining for just a minute, I dusted off my Jansport and imagined going back to do it all over again (maybe as a wine major this time).
We were almost back to our car, when I was pulled out of my time traveling day dream. “Mommy, I like this place,” my three year old stated. I gave her a squeeze, and pulled the Sophie giraffe out of the diaper bag. Now how do I gently convince my kids that Cal Poly is the happiest place on earth so when they are 18, they will want to go here too?? And then mom and dad can visit all the time! Crazy right? No, if you are a Poly grad, you’d understand.