Ring the bell for South Dakota

One of the most comforting places in the world is Coughlin-Alumni Stadium on game day. The smell, the bright colors, the thousands of people sharing love for one institution. It’s a slice of the past, it’s home.

The Jackrabbits opened their 2011 campaign on Saturday and a few friends and I gathered at our alma mater to pay homage to our school, the breeding ground for where we are and who we are today. It was a simply perfect weekend.

Ruth and I made three-hour drive on the world’s most boring road. We were so excited that we kept jumping into song. We arrived in Brookings and there was newness to the place. All the worry on my mind and the terrible memories of that town, and they do exist, were gone. Just happiness. Just joy.

We lunched at Cubby’s with Brandon, Susan and Scott, trading Collegian (the school newspaper that defined my collegiate career) and current newspaper stories. Then on to our hotel, which happens to have a lounge that hosted several life chats between a dear friend and I. He joined us there and after some reminiscing we were on to tailgating and then the game, where Melissa and Lauren joined our cheerleading section. After SDSU barely squeaked out the win, we celebrated in downtown Brookings.

The next morning, we ate breakfast at Cook’s, a special place because it was the only restaurant open at 5 a.m. on Wednesday when we had just finished putting the newspaper together. Then Cottonwood coffee, which is where I spent hours finishing my Peace Corps application. And, before it was over, a tour of campus. Having worked in university’s fundraising sector, I saw many conceptual and blue prints. Now, they are actual buildings and spaces. Campus has changed since I left more than a year ago, but it is a completely different place since I arrived there has a naive freshman eight years ago. But then again, I am a different person.

I ran into a lot of friends, acquaintances and former colleagues, all with the same question: “You are leaving soon, right?”  But the simply best part was spending time with my friends, sharing laughs and snarky comments. Sure, we reveled in the old days, but also openly questioned the future. I guess that is the difference between old friends and good ones.

Going back to Brookings often brings back a flood of emotions,the past and future colliding. This time, though, it was just right. I saw where I came from and where I was going. There are no regrets or doubt. Just reassurance. I am not sure there is anything else you can expect out of your college town than that.

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