Thursday, October 8, 2009

Love at first sight

I still remember the very first time I saw the Notre Dame campus. I was 17 and a senior in high school on a college tour with my dad and twin sister. The date was September 29, which I only remember because it was my best friend’s birthday. I was annoyed that my dad was making me miss my friend’s party to visit a college that, at the time, held no special interest for me.

I remember the tour around campus- I was quickly taken with its beauty. We went to 5:15 Mass in the Basilica and the majesty of the old church was arresting. We saw bands of students walking to the pep rally, waving flags and cheering. They looked like they were having so much fun. We snuck inside Howard to see what the dorms looked like and a kind-hearted RA showed us around.

“There’s a chapel and a kitchen in every dorm,” she said. My sister and I perked up at that. We both love to cook. She worked as a chef for two summers, while I throw dinner parties and bake desserts for every possible occasion. Oh, and my puppy chow was the mainstay of every high school bake sale (puppy chow is a peanut-butter-and-chocolate concoction, for those of you who unfamiliar with the most addictive dessert ever made).

"Can we take a quick look?" we asked, scurrying into the kitchen before she could say "no."

In the kitchen we found two girls unloading groceries.

“What are you doing?” we asked.

“Cooking a dinner party for our friends,” they said.

My sister and I looked at each other. Harvard was cool and all, but they didn’t have kitchens in their dorms.

This is the place for us, we thought.

We stopped at the Grotto, which is now my favorite place on campus. I saw it for the first time that day. As I lit a candle, I considered what to pray for and knew immediately what I wanted most.

Please God, let me get in here, I whispered.

Later on, I sat on a bench on South Quad and thought about college. I watched people walk past and I looked up and down the quad. Could I live here for four years? I thought.

I pictured the magnificent Basilica and the cozy dorm kitchen. I remembered the cheering students walking to the pep rally and the warm glow of the Grotto.

Yes, I could.

Last Saturday, I stopped at the Grotto with a friend late at night. I knelt quietly and prayed for a little while. It was almost three years to the day since my first visit to the Grotto, the day I decided to apply here. Saturday night I lit a candle and thought, Thank you, God, that I go to this school.

When did you first fall in love with Notre Dame? Did you have a "love at first sight" moment?


  1. Hi, I'm Ryan. Class of 2000, Morrissey Manor. I'm sure you'll be getting a lot more comments now that you're featured in the Alumni Newsletter.
    I am very conflicted about my time at ND. On one hand, I really liked it while I was there. Looking back, I now think I didn't utilize it as much as I should have. On the other hand, I'm not sure it was the right place for me. The conservative nature of the student body ran contrary to my personal leanings and it seems to have become moreso in the years since I left.
    And yet, I miss it. Not all of it, but a lot. I feel like I left a lot behind, although I like where I am now, in Los Angeles.
    But hey, that's probably a lot of information for what started as a simple comment. Good luck with the blog!

  2. Hi, Tess. My name is Jeanine and I graduated in 1976. I was in the first freshman class of girls admitted to Notre Dame in 1972 -- and I lived in Badin, too! Are the cockroaches still roaming the hallways?? :o) I pretty much grew up on ND's campus since I lived in Vetville (the married students' neighborhood that used to stand where the Library is today) while my dad attended ND ... so "love at first sight" doesn't quite apply in my situation (i.e., I can't remember if I felt the lightening bolt at two years old!). But I do remember a rough first semester dealing with that 20:1 male:female ratio and being told that "Notre Dame lost all of its prestige when it admitted girls." By my second semester, tho, I had really embraced Notre Dame and -- as sappy as it sounds -- I think I fall a little more in love with the place every year.

  3. Hi, I am a current senior here, Kelly Levis. I heard about Vetville for the first time, when I was out to dinner with a friend's parents-Alums-this past football weekend. I would love to hear more stories about what it was like if anyone has fond memories!

  4. Hi Tess,
    I related to this post because I too, have a twin sister, and I also loved Notre Dame at first site. I first came (without my sister) for a summer architecture camp after my junior year of high school. It was idyllic.

    My parents tell me that after two weeks at the camp, they picked up a different daughter than the one they dropped off. I remember telling them as we drove away "I wish we could afford to go here". Apparently that's a big part of why my dad scrimped every penny he could to get me in there. (And that's with 4 family members in college at the same time for a while.)

    My only regret is that my twin sister didn't get to come too. I wish I could change that. This post doesn't say specifically, but I assume your sister is at ND too?

    Thanks for the memories your post brought.

  5. Thanks for sharing your stories! Jeanine, I'm sorry to say that Badin still has a bit of a pest problem, but we also have as much fun as I'm sure you did when you were here. Wow, you were there right at the beginning of co-ed ND... any funny stories or memorable moments?

    My twin sister is also a student here, living in the beautiful new Ryan Hall (lucky girl!). I know just what you mean about wanting to come here as soon as you came to campus! Notre Dame's campus really does have a magic to it.

  6. Hi Tess,
    I'm Al, class of '73. I was a senior when Jeanine was a freshman. There were some jerks who thought that ND was finished when it went coed. Believe me, they were a small minority. Most of us had believed coeducation was just around the corner when we started 3 years previously, and were overjoyed when it finally arrived. I take great pride in being a part of ND's first coed class. As to "Love at first sight," while I had been on campus once previously, my first day as a student was my "moment." Standing on the veranda at LaFortune, I heard the band playing the Victory March for the first time, and knew that it was where I was supposed to be.

  7. Kelly, Vetville was heaven-on-earth for little kids. It was a neighborhood with 3-4 parallel streets holding old WWII barracks which were each subdivided into three living units. Each unit had a teeny living room, kitchen, bathroom and two little bedrooms. Imagine squeezing the typical 1950's Catholic family into that kind of space. We had 4 kids in our bedroom by the time my dad graduated. The fathers were attending class full-time, the moms were always pregnant, and the ever-expanding population of kids had free reign over the entire neighborhood -- and the campus! I remember bicycling around the South Quad when I was five, being pulled around on a sled when the lakes froze over in the winter, and climbing up the Grotto water fountain (balancing on the saint's knees) to always get a drink. There was a woods where Stepan Center is now, and we used to go find dead birds and give them full Catholic funerals. I was even a SMC before I was a Domer -- attended the kindergarten on St. Mary's campus when I was five. We have tons of slides from those years, and I always wondered why no one wrote about that special ND community/experience. I'll have to put it on my list of things to do. :o)

    1. Hi Jeanine, I am sending a reply to a post that is more than three years old, but here goes! Hope you get this. I have recently started a FACEBOOK group called FRIENDS OF NOTRE DAME @ VETVILLE. I am hoping to connect with some of the baby boomers who were born or lived in Vetville. I would welcome any pictures & stories you may have! I am Susan Allman-Carlo. I lived in Vetville Unit 35A four four years. It was the most memorable time of my life! Hope I will hear from you! Spread the word! Thanks, S.

  8. Tess, I think ND was being ironic when they put you in the oldest girl's dorm and your twin sister in the newest! It comes down to History vs. Air Conditioning -- and I still think you got the better deal! As for stories from the beginning days of coeducation, as I'm sure Al will agree, those were some wild times. During the first days, the national news networks sent cameras to follow us around campus. That was disconcerting. Then there was the first football home game. As each of us left Badin out the South Quad door that morning to go have breakfast, we had to walk through a gauntlet of grown-ups standing outside the door just waiting there and staring at us walk by. No one said a word. They just stared. Agh! Oh, and then there was the dining hall experience itself. The drinks station used to be smack in the middle of each of the two dining rooms, with a central aisle leading up to each side of the station. In the beginning, you NEVER wanted to get up to get a refill, because as soon as you started walking down that aisle, the entire room would go quiet.. and all of the guys would watch you walk all the way up to the station and then all the way back down to your seat. Sometimes they would hold up cards rating your looks. And, once you got past the initial large survey classes, odds were that you'd be the only female in your class ... which meant, during discussion periods, you were expected to provide everyone else with "the women's perspective." I was only 18 -- I didn't even know what MY perspective was half the time... so it was pretty funny that some profs expected me to expound for the entire female sex. Anyway, those are some memories. Oh, I forgot about the panty raid the night before the first home game! The guys were chanting outside on the Quad, and we all just opened our windows and told them to go away. Geez, it was 1972, not 1952! They didn't try that one again... at least not until Farley and B-P went coed our second year. Then the North Quad guys had to learn their lesson, too. So, Tess, if/when you and your friends lament about ND's social life, at least know that it could have been a lot worse!

  9. Jeanine,
    I guess I missed the worst of the dining hall experience. I was a North Quader (Last male graduating class in B-P). Some of my best friends were Walsh girls, and I know they got tired of the scrutiny. You can be very proud that you blazed a trail to the future.

  10. Hoo boy, I still remember the homemade banner that hung out one of the B-P windows the day they announced the dorm was getting turned over to the girls. Nasty. I always did feel sorry for the displaced guys, tho. I wish ND could have folded us in a little less traumatically. On a more positive note: my son just graduated from ND in May, and it was so nice to see how much more normal the male/female situation is today. They all still complain, of course, but that's normal, too.

  11. I remember the banner too. All of us were disappointed, but only a few truly acted like jerks. Unfortunately, they were loud and obnoxious. It was a little easier for me to be dispassionate about B-P becoming a women's dorm. After all, I was graduating. It was tough for the underclassmen, and a few of them took it out on the wrong targets. Do you remember why B-P was chosen? The University had commissioned a survey to determine the best choices for the next set of women's dorms. B-P and Farley were dead last on the list. A reliable source said that they ended up being chosen anyway because the University wanted to ease out Farley's rector (He was apparently fond of entertaining ladies in his room). Once Farley was chosen, the only logical second dorm was B-P. Anyway, it was a sacrifice for the greater good.

  12. Jeanine,
    I would love to hear more about Vetville, my home for the first two years of my life. Because I left at 2 I have no memories of it. I returned to ND for college, graduating in 81, by which time Vetville was long gone, of course. I would sometimes hear Father Ted speak fondly of it. i think he was chaplain of Vetville or something before becoming President. You say it had 3-4 streets. How many homes? And were they all Quonset huts? I've seen a few old home movies, but that's about it. I laughed at your description of all the expectant moms at Vetville. Things at ND haven't changed that much - a friend went to law school there and lived in Married Student Housing, which he always referred to as "Pregnant Student Housing."

    1. Mike, I have started a FACEBOOK group called FRIENDS OF VETVILLE @ NOTRE DAME, I am Susan Allman Carlo. I lived in Vetville Unit 35A for 4 years. Please join & we will share our memories with you! S.