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Four Years at the Mount

Senior Year

December Dreams

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

(12/2014) After four long years at Mount St. Maryís, Iíve started to fall into the kind of pattern youíd expect from an elderly man rather than a soon-to-be graduate. More often than not, I catch myself saying things like, "I remember before there was a Veritas Program," or, "You used to be able to print your papers at the Niche even after the library closed," and other statements that make me sound like I should occupy a spot on a wrap-around porch. Jokes about my growing kinship with crotchety cartoon grandfathers aside, the one positive thing about all of this reminiscing is I get to think back on the amazing first Christmas I had at the Mount, and the adventures of my freshman year.

It was a time when everything was still new, when I could barely navigate the residence halls, and when I thought I could somehow find a perfect balance between sleep, social life, and meticulous notes. It was a time when I could do anything and be anything. Things like declaring a major seemed far less significant than searching for the perfect sandwich combination at the dining hall. Those who have weathered a few winters here at the Mount should know that it looks kind of like the mythical world of Narnia after a good snowfall. (I would apologize about the puns in the earlier sentence but that would make me a flake. Ok, I promise Iím done now.)

At the time, I was unaware of the magic that followed a good snow. How everyone, regardless of time or location, would just cast up whatever they were doing and begin to enjoy the wintery playground outside. Of all of the things that happened to me then, these are the ones that stick out the most:

1. Tray Sledding

A general sense of adventure gives rise to a beautiful ingenuity here at Mount St. Maryís University, and when students are unable to procure sleds from outside venues, we improvise. One of my fondest memories was seeing the number of people borrowing trays from Patriot Hall to use as impromptu sledding devices, careening down whatever surface could generate the greatest speed. Freshmen like myself took our newfangled sleds to the hillock behind Pangborn Hall, and with all the grace of a beached walrus, managed to get ourselves lodged in snowbanks time after time. We would emerge from these mounds of white fluff, laughing and shaking the powder off as we ran up to try it again. It didnít matter if we were graceful, it just mattered that we did it. It was the same story everywhere on campus. Seminarians were sliding down the hills on Echo Field, and juniors and seniors were traveling to any hilly spot on campus they could find. Tray sledding was more than just a fun way to pass the time; it was a tradition that bound all of us together.

2. The Charlie Brown Tree

In a move that echoed the time honored tradition of the popular Peanuts cartoon, my roommate and I decided to procure the saddest, smallest, most pathetic faux Christmas tree we could find and turn it into our mascot. We succeeded. During the days leading up to Christmas and all of the time that followed it, up we kept this tiny little wire shrub in the corner of our room. The laundry that accumulated around it became a kind of blanket for its base. We had cheap glass bulbs and tiny plastic ornaments that weighed down the treeís branches. Girls would walk into the room and coo, "Itís so cute!" Our guy friends would scoff at it and remark, "Nice tree, bros." And it was. It was our tree; pathetic as it was, we had decorated it, cared for it, and loved it. The tree didnít need to be anything amazing for us to love it. It was a symbol of our newfound freedoms, sagging branches and all.

3. Getting Cared For By Others

Remember how I mentioned the walrus-like grace of my friends earlier? After my friends and I had officially soaked ourselves to the bone, we ran inside our hall shouting about how our toes were falling off and hooting about the great time we just had. We decided it would be wise to stop by the girlsí floor of our hall, and the ladies in their infinite mercy decided to take us in. Within minutes they had produced a laptop with movies on it, cups of hot cocoa, and several home-knitted quilts. My friends and I were soon bundled up in a wigwam of blankets, curled up on the linoleum floor while watching Boondock Saints on someoneís battered computer. It was the most epically spontaneous moment of kindness I had seen. Plus, you know, there was free hot cocoa, so that was nice.

While the list sums up three simple things that I remember, I think the overarching spirit of that list is whatís most important. What always strikes me is how all of those moments that led up to my first Christmas were indicative not just of the holiday, but also of the freedoms inherent in college. More than my family, more than my friends, I was the one who was left to make my own meaning out of the holiday season. That alone made it one of the best times of my life. The joy that I spread and the moments that I shared with others were born of my own life and whims. It can and should be the same for you. Enjoy the fact that the meaning of the season has as much to do with you as it does with anything else. It falls to you to bring about joy, laughter, and peace this holiday season, and thatís a great responsibility. Iím Kyle Ott. Wonít you sit and read for a while?

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