(Recipe at bottom)
As summer swerves with a screeching halt at the corner of pumpkin spice lattes and radiant foliage, the vans unload for incoming college freshmen down the street, the line at Cobblestone Ale House snakes around the side into Davis St., and the soft mumbling of drunken conversations echo through Central Square yet again. The promise of fall is heartwarming in all its New England spirit and glory of stark-white Birch trees and local apple cider. The scent of cranberry walnut bread baking early Sunday morning, leaves setting fire to the sky before they burn to the very tip of a twig and lazily fall, caressing the sweet air as they do, lazily and peacefully like the undercurrent of a blazing hearth on a crisp cool night. And yet, there is something haunting about it.
The reverberating laughter outside my nighttime window sets off what seems to be palpable memories of being in that drunken crowd only four, quick years ago as a fearless freshman. Now, as I awaken to the foggy morning of downtown Keene, a chill in the air, a rich, hot Prime Roast coffee in hand, a slight scurry in my step as I take the crosswalk to my full-time job at the local newspaper, there is a ping of nostalgia as I realize college students just minutes away are arriving at their first 8 a.m. class. There are new and unfamiliar faces surrounding them, and their stomachs are in knots with fresh pages of notebooks and piles of rented books in their arms. Bean & Bagel iced coffees they purchased with Owl Cash in hands, they’re walking down the sunny path of Appian Way, and an instrumental version of “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles rings from the oh, so gorgeous library, shaded by bountiful trees.
They are blissfully naive to the culture they are now involved in; they are on the edge of a slippery slope between taking advantage of the opportunities around them or hanging back in a poster-covered dorms, unaware that these unfamiliar faces will only take a year or two to recognize, and by junior year numerous “Hey’s!” and “What’s up’s?” will be exchanged, a feeling that only can be described as true belonging. By this time, they may be growing old of Sizzlers at the NOC (but who really gets sick of those?), and instead venturing out to downtown cafés for a Brewbakers’ quiche or to study.
The sense of true belonging is achieved again through professors and advisors. Intellectual conversations can only be instigated through sheer motivation for figuring out the rest of their lives during or post-college: majoring in Education or American Studies, studying abroad in Spain or Italy, work study at the parking office or student center, volunteering for Alternative Spring Break, writing for the newspaper, internships and so on. The vast resources on campus branch out internationally and deeply. I think of myself on that campus, sitting on the pulse of something so much bigger, and now I feel a heartbeat away.
It’s so defining to say, “I’m a student,” but now what am I? Am I just my job? It took me a minute to consider this; I am so many other things. But I am these things because of what I learned, experienced and discovered at Keene State College; like a mother’s hand on the first day of kindergarten, KSC has let me go, watched me walk off with teary, proud, loving eyes. Yet, we are not far from each other; I am only on the other side of Main St., a parallel universe you may say. I am an editor, a woman, a runner, a sister, a best friend. And I realize also, I am still a student. Because KSC not only made me a college student, but a student of the world.
As this, I am observant of what is around me; I listen carefully to the words spoken to me, taste and try all things, jump in the water, introduce myself to new people, get out of my comfort zone. I am motivated to continue learning even in my position as an editor, as a woman, a friend, and an individual.
As a post-grad who made the location of her alma mater her home, the sudden flashbacks of my old life may creep in every once in awhile; seeing the school newspaper being delivered on Thursdays along Main St., a group of girls getting bagels Saturday morning, or meeting with an old advisor to give his new students a tour of The Sentinel, the memories are tingling, happy, and inspiring. I am never doubtful, because my home is somewhere I feel aware, safe, challenged. As the barista asks if I’d like the usual, my old professor invites me to see his band perform at Waxy’s, I visit the Farmers’ Market and chat with the locals, drive around surrounding towns on new roads, spotting herons and deer-filled fields, excitedly pulling over to capture Mt. Monadnock against a sunset sky, meet someone in the park who worked at the school newspaper 40 years ago, as the fall turns to winter and covers Keene with a blanket of whispering snow, I feel something that can only be described as true belonging.
- 4 tbsp butter
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 1 tbsp rosemary
- 1 tbsp thyme
- 3 cups butternut squash, cubed
- 1 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
- 1 tbsp brown sugar (At first I did not add this because I didn’t want it to be sweet, but after I finished, I did end up adding it to balance out the power of flavor from the thyme and rosemary. It’s very subtle, trust me!)
- 1/4 tbsp nutmeg
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 lb. penne (or fettuccine) pasta
- Another 2 cups milk
- 1 cup water
Melt butter on low heat. Add onions, rosemary and thyme till aromatic. Add butternut squash, stock, and cover for 15 min. When squash is soft, mash with a potato masher. Add 2 cups milk and stir. Add cheese, brown sugar, nutmeg, stir.
Add in pasta, 2 more cups milk, 1 cup water, and stir continuously, folding the pasta into the sauce. It will seem soupy at first but give it time. Add two tbsp flour to thicken if necessary. Leave on heat until noodles are cooked through. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and parsley.