Back to Bates, Back to Lewiston
Three years ago, I had split loyalties at my college reunion. I was in the middle of researching and writing ONE GOAL, so I was spending a lot of time in Lewiston, but absolutely none of it on the campus of my alma mater, Bates, which sits across the street from Lewiston Middle School and just down the road from Lewiston High School. Reunion festivities were to begin on a lovely Friday evening, my college friends gathering from near and far at the "Den Terrace." I, however, was sitting inside the cacophony that was the Androscoggin Colisee, ready to watch the likes of Maulid and Joe and Ridwan and Mwesa and Abdiaziz -- and so many others -- graduate. "Where are you?" kept coming across my phone as I listened to the amazing Zamzam Mohamed give the graduation speech and as I chatted with Dan Gish, who kept checking on me to see if I needed anything.
Earlier, I had been on campus, because some of the high school graduates asked me to photograph them in their caps and gowns by Lake Andrews, or "the Puddle," as Batesies affectionately call it. This has become a common sight on campus -- from Eid to weddings, graduations to proms, the beautiful setting outside the Olin Arts building is a backdrop to so many special occasions for Lewiston's newest newcomers. And I would return, soon enough, once LHS graduation was over, and I had said "CONGRATULATIONS" or "Hambalyo!" to everyone, and met Shobow's new baby in the parking lot, not yet knowing that I would dedicate the book to her.
Once back at Bates for reunion, I found it difficult to reconcile my current life in Lewiston with the memories -- and the people -- that I lived with all those years ago as a college student. Most of my classmates didn't know the city as I had come to know it, as I was learning about it, as so many were patiently teaching me. And I wasn't sure how to have feet in both of those worlds. I was either there to be at Bates, or I was there to be in Lewiston. But the two things were never together.
This past weekend, I was back at Bates once again for reunion, but this time not my reunion. Invited by the class of 1959 to speak about ONE GOAL, I said "yes" instantly, thrilled to have an opportunity see Lewiston friends and spend some time on campus. Once settled in the lovely Dunn House, I went to Dairy Joy with my friends Leila and Miles; had a lovely chat with Lois Wagner, who was gardening in her front yard (and then later Professor Emeritus Richard Wagner, who was walking the dogs); attended the annual lobster bake in Commons with classmates Karen and Marianne, who were on campus for College Key meetings; watched the glorious fireworks just after sunset on the Puddle; ate sambusa with my dear friend Abdikadir Negeye at the new Isuken Food truck; and finally, on Saturday afternoon, headed to Pettengill Hall to give a book talk.
That it was a gorgeous day I found foreboding -- who would want to sit inside and listen to a book talk when the sky was this blue, I wondered as I headed down Alumni Walk, Hathorn's bell tower above. When I saw the crowd leaving Jared Golden's talk -- an SRO audience in Keck, which I think is now the biggest classroom on campus -- my sense of dread widened. All those people had just spent an hour or so inside at that talk, I thought. Definitely no one would come to mine.
As a few people started to wander in to my assigned room, mostly from the sponsoring class of 1959, I caught a glimpse of a few familiar faces just outside the door. Dan Gish. Cindy Gish. Mike McGraw. The night before had been, as always, high school graduation -- McGraw's last one, as he is retiring this month -- and the all night after party. On very little sleep, there they were. Walking back in, I paused a moment. The room was bursting at the seams, reunion volunteers scrambling to find more chairs. I saw one of the Lewiston youth team coaches in the back. Another parent off to the left. Then Abdikadir appeared. And then, just as I started talking about him and his dad and coaching, in walked Abdijabar Hersi.
When I was done with my presentation, I put the microphone down and brought all of them up to the front to chat and answer questions with the crowd. We all signed books. We all made new friends. And we all had a blast. Later that night, a few of us went to dinner with the Class of 1959, the spirited group who had gotten this ball rolling. We talked about school and friends and, of course, soccer. I asked Cindy, who is principal at Geiger Elementary, about the new school opening in Lewiston this fall. We talked about the books we were reading. And we talked about family. Because, as Dan always reminds me, that's what we are. Family. And that night, our family was at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Together, as Coach McGraw would say. Together.