Technically, I’m a high school drop-out. So when I graduated from Colorado College in 1994, it was my first time to “walk.”
I’m originally from Colorado; born and bred until I was a few days over 13 and my family picked up and moved to Quito Ecuador. My dad is a doctor with a yen for adventure and the increasingly managed part of managed care of medical life in the mid-80s just wasn’t cutting it for him anymore. So we moved. I fell in love with Ecuador but attended an international missionary school which I hated. The school was good enough academically, it was the missionary culture I couldn’t stand. By the middle of my junior year in high school my mom came to visit my brother who was a junior at Colorado College. On a hunch (she’s a wise woman, my mother), she spoke to an Admission counselor about my unhappiness and asked if they’d ever taken a student at the end of their junior year; they told her to give it a shot. So I applied and in the intervening months, I’d lay awake wondering if I was going to move to America or have a senior year. My high school guidance counselor told me he didn’t think I could make it and that he didn’t recommend that I go. I graduated from CC in three years with a respectable GPA, so take that Mr. Hart. Now it’s my turn to make a recommendation; get a more suitably pessimistic job.
But this isn’t my high school story; it’s my love story for the Old North End. When I came to Colorado College, my parents were already back in Ecuador. I had never been to campus and my boyfriend dropped me off. It took me about 24 hours to feel that I had come home. I loved, loved, loved it. My first class—Sociology of the Family—blew my mind. I met so many smart and interesting people. I read in the bleachers so I could see Pike’s Peak. I gained every ounce of my freshman fifteen with multiple trips to Josh and John’s. I began babysitting for a cute little family of four on Tejon street which was within easy walking distance from my room at Loomis Hall. Their little, historic house was perfect. Leaded glass, nooks, crannies, angles, hard wood and two perfect kids. The oldest, a boy, once pretended for nearly a whole hour that a wood chip was a key that could unlock the wooden swing set; he’s now in medical school. The youngest had big soft curls and after her nap would unreservedly tuck into my side while I read her stories on the couch. After I slept late one morning, I made a guilt peach pie out of late season peaches Ellen and I bought at the farmer’s market in Acacia Park. She fell asleep in the stroller on the way back and now that I’m a mom, I’m sure I probably unknowingly messed up her nap schedule for the day.
My second year, I got permission to live off campus (I couldn’t afford to stay on) and moved into my first apartment. It’s a sub-divided home on Wahsatch, it’s on the historic registry and my part was 500 square feet including the 13 steps and the landing that it took to get to the second floor. I could vacuum the whole place from one outlet. When we ran the hair dryer and the microwave at the same time, the circuits would blow. The circuit box wasn’t in our apartment so we’d have to go knock on the downstairs neighbor’s door to throw the switch. The old claw foot tub had been rigged with a shower-curtain of sorts that clung to the wet body like Saran Wrap. The shower I could have done without, but I loved my tiny home. The kitchen had a cute little pantry with an antique door and doorknob. The bedroom had a little west-facing window that perfectly framed the Peak.
I paid rent with the four dollars an hour I earned as a hostess at the Old Chicago’s downtown. I lived on homemade bread (flour is cheap) and Mountain Dew (less cheap). When we felt particularly flush, we’d treat ourselves to the 55 cent soft tacos at Taco Bell. There were several months I worried I might not have enough money in my checking account to cover the $3.50 service fee. When block break rolled around, I’d pick up a double shift. During the summer term, I took three blocks and worked at Old Chi’s and Wooglin’s. I got to work on a borrowed ten-speed bike. In fact, I got hit by a van on that bike once. The van didn’t see me as it turned left onto Nevada. (Lord, this is starting to sound like a tragedy; it wasn’t though. I was happy.)
My one regret of the time in college is that my time was so divided. I distinctly remember having to pull myself from a fascinating book to go work. I envied the kids who had free time to play Frisbee golf on the quad. It was also during that year, however, that I met the Jacksons. They lived on Cascade in a huge and carefully restored, gigantic, Victorian. Their guest house was bigger than my apartment and they practically adopted me. While I never thought ill of my apartment—it tried so hard—staying at their house was like a vacation. Before my third year at CC, the Jacksons offered to let me live with them rent-free so I could save some money to go back to Ecuador. I lived with their daughters on the third floor. We girls had our own suite with a dedicated dressing room off of the full bathroom (which didn’t short out when I ran the dryer). During the day, I would walk south on Cascade to class and imagine myself living in the neighborhood in my own home. The comparably smallish one on the Northeast corner of Columbia and Cascade; that one was the perfect place for me.
The day I graduated from CC was one of those May days in Colorado Springs that could be stiflingly hot or snowing; turns out it was hot. I walked in my hot black robe toward the “stage” of Armstrong. Afterward, we celebrated my first diploma on the Jackson’s patio by the tennis court. My favorite graduation gifts were a mountain bike and a fishing pole. God, I love this town.
Kyndra Wilson, Wahsatch