Half an hour ago, as I walked back to my dorm after class, a pair of gorgeous monarch butterflies flitted across my path. Now, I have seen butterflies at home in Oregon — the white-winged kind that are actually just a prettier species of moth — but these were not Oregon butterflies. Dancing in front of me was a pair of true, orange-and-black, fluttery-winged monarchs looking for all the world like two butterflies in love.
Until Grinnell, I had lived my whole life in the East Coast Jewish bubble. I went to a private Jewish day school, ate Chinese food on Christmas, and attended more bar mitzvah ceremonies than you could shake a stick at. Don’t get me wrong, I love Manhattan kosher delis as much as the next girl, but I needed to meet different people in a new environment. This was hard for most of my friends and family to understand, and most thought I was throwing away my upbringing to live in the Iowa cornfields.
Grinnell and Carleton. Those were my top two college choices when I applied. I’ll be truthful — Carleton was my top choice. I had a friend going there, and he sounded like he was having a lot of fun. “Oh man!” I thought. “I wanna have fun too!” I hadn’t figured out by this point that most people have fun at their school; that’s why they chose it.
Two years ago when I was getting ready to head off to college, my parents told me I could have a laptop. Stoked beyond all reckoning, I surfed Dell’s website to decide what model I wanted (I wasn’t even going to touch those Apples. I’m a Windows junkie through and through).
Decision: a 17-inch screen with lots of multimedia features.
Consensus: biggest mistake of my life.
A tall, smartly dressed man with slicked-back hair and gray suspenders slides up to me, hand outstretched. I smile and place my hand in his, accepting his silent offer. He walks me out to the middle of the dance floor, and we connect, his arm around my back, my hand on his shoulder. The music pulses playfully as a familiar Duke tune begins, and we start rocking in place to get a sense of one another. Then the saxes gear up for the A section, he spins me out, and suddenly I’m dancing.
Take Back the Night is an event focused on collectively speaking out against — amongst many other social problems — rape, sexual violence, domestic violence, violence against children, and violence against women. Across the country, Take Back the Night rallies are made up of candlelight vigils, empowerment marches, and sexual assault survivor testimonials, as well as other forms of solidarity and protest.
With more than 100 students crowded around the television, mouths dropping open, eyes fixated on the single small screen, one would imagine we were watching the Super Bowl or the season finale of House or Lost, not two men vying to be the next president of the United States.
Sometimes in college residence halls, there are floors so great their inhabitants are designated by floor name. My first year, there were “those kids from Loose Second.” The next year, it was “those kids from D First.” I was always sort of mystified. How could people who had seemingly nothing but geography in common become so close?
Then, in my senior year, I moved to Read Second.
While most colleges have some sort of mascot, a select few have unofficial ones that are even more popular amongst the student body. Here at Grinnell College, our unofficial mascot is unmistakably the squirrel.
Hang on. A squirrel?
It seems a bit odd at first. Why would we adopt a common, medium-sized rodent as an unofficial icon at a top-notch liberal arts institution? I admit I was a bit puzzled myself when I learned about the importance of squirrels to Grinnell College student life.