Last Word: Home is Where the Bison Are
By Jenny Ross '05
When I had to decorate the high school classroom where I was to educate teenage minds in the wonders of literature, I decided to use the most inspirational, comforting things I could find - campus images from past Bucknell calendars and a large, orange-and-blue Bucknell pennant. Surrounded by an obsession for my alma mater, my students wonder why I ever left Lewisburg. My love for the University is evident. They may understand Lord of the Flies, but how I could have left Bucknell baffles their young minds. My words for them, which are usually so abundant, are suddenly minimal. They won't understand my answer because, to me, Bucknell is everywhere.
My love affair with Bucknell began one rainy, August evening before I began my senior year of high school. My parents and I had arrived on campus too late for a college tour. Wanting nothing to do with my dad, who decided to take himself on an unsuccessful self-guided tour through locked buildings, I meandered through an empty campus along the pathways of the Academic Quad. We had arrived shortly after a summer rain had ended and just in time for the sun to make one final stunning effect on the day. To me, the timing of this, my first big, bold beautiful Bucknell sunset on my first Bucknell visit, was fate.
Even now, I can close my eyes and still see the sun touch the tops of the trees as it fell behind the Fieldhouse, where, as an athlete, I was to spend more time there than in my res hall. Or how the Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library (to whom I grew so close I referred to as Ellen) absorbed the sun's final rays. No matter where I am or what my day's annoyances, I experience a sense of Bucknell bliss.
During a between-semester break my freshman year at Bucknell, I returned to the New Jersey town where I had spent my entire existence. I had only been there a week before I yearned to go "home." It seemed that, in mere months, I had found a new place where I belonged, a new family in which to be a part.
However, what my students won't understand is that my idea of home, the one that Bucknell gave me, is more than just that campus in Lewisburg. It began there. It grew through four years with every friend I made, every sister my sorority gave me, every bus ride with teammates, every walk to the Freez, every Sunday brunch in the Caf, every professor who stopped to talk on campus, every nap on the library's leather couches, every breath of the blended cow-monkey manure breeze, every moment placed in my mind's scrapbook to document my adoration.
Now, my home roams the country like our mascot once did on the plains. It's with my friends in New York City; my sorority sisters in Boston; my teammates in Pennsylvania. It's with the person who passes me on the highway with a Bucknell sticker proudly clinging to the window. And the runner I pass on my bike ride who shouts a "'Ray Bucknell" in my direction. It's sprinkled in places that I have never been, like Chicago and Northern California. The places I visit, like D.C. and Philadelphia.
Yet, when I lose the pack, all I do is close my eyes, watch the sun set over the Quad, catch a glimpse of the banners that adorn the original Lewisburg light posts, and read, no matter where I am, "Welcome Home." After all, home isn't just where the heart is, it's where the Bison roam.