Monday, November 4, 2013

A Tree Grows In East Tennessee

Hubs and I got home late last night after spending the weekend in beautiful East Tennessee. We trekked ten+ hours across five states, all the way to collegetown for homecoming weekend.  Hubs fraternity was celebrating their 60th anniversary on campus, so lots of 'old' friends also made the return trip to town.

When we pull into collegeville hubs and I always say it really does feel like we're coming home. I've lived a lot of places in my life, each one woven into the fabric of my being in some way, but this place? It's special. In a category all its own.  

First of all, there are few places in this world more gorgeous than East Tennessee on a crystal clear fall day.  The fraternity house is situated in an area known as 'the tree streets'-

Can you guess why?

We stayed in a hotel perched on the edge of campus, so on Saturday hubs and I got up early for a walk through our old stomping grounds. Time swirls as we wander past the old library and the steps where we would 'shoot the breeze', wait for friends, and flirt. We look up at the Student Center, across to the business building, and over at my old dorm. We note the spot where a prank was played some thirty five years ago, and we can't help but still giggle at the memory.

We walk all the way out past where the intramural fields sat, where jerseys were worn and hundreds of games were played and watched. We walk without a plan, but our feet know to head in the direction of our tree.

Technically its not our tree, but secretly it is. Hubs and I spent many an afternoon hanging out under her big leafy branches, watching the autumn sky fade to winter and winter back to spring. In 1981 our tree sat all by her lonesome at the edge of a hill, not so much anymore. Time marches on and the campus has naturally grown and changed in the intervening years. Not a lot, but enough to make you question your sense of what was where.  There's a cluster of shrubs and some grasses growing in front of her base now, and another tree has grown up big beside her.

Still she's ours.  
The place where we imagined the future.

As we were making our way home yesterday, hubs asked me what I'd say about the weekend.  I thought I'd mention the fun Friday night party, meeting Phil Fulmer...

(yes, that Phil Fulmer), the hours spent talking and laughing and reminiscing with friends, dancing til my feet hurt, hugs around the neck from sorority sisters, lunch in our old hang out, the tug in our hearts as we pulled away from this place on Sunday morning.

Somehow though, my thoughts keep going back to the tree.  

I can see it so clearly in my head. The air smells of autumn and hope. My hair was long and my heart was light. Hubs was funny and mustached and full of mischief, and the sky that brilliant shade of cloudless blue that makes you feel like anything is possible, because when you're twenty everything is possible.

This place is part of us. It's the origin of our shared history. It's where our story began, and the friends we saw this weekend are some of the earliest and most special characters in our story. The kind you want to remember and will never forget.

We figured out life together. We made good decisions and did stupid stuff. We laughed and yelled and cried and cheered. We made mistakes and memories.We were young.

"It's surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time." 
 ~Barbara Kingsolver


  1. And that's why it's called 'Homecoming' :)

  2. So glad you were able to go. Love the color of the trees! Sounds like it was a great time and how awesome to spend time with "your" tree......

  3. I think that's what makes going back for Homecoming special. Unfortunately when you live in the same town it loses its meaning.

  4. You are still together, strong, in love and growing like the trees!!!
    Fun post.

  5. I grew up in Knoxville ... haven't lived there in over 20 years ... but it is always HOME to me, too!!! :)
    Cool seeing Phil Fulmer in the pic - my brother ran into him at the K-ville airport one time - and struck up a conversation. Quite a nice guy, I hear!! :)

  6. It's fun to go back to where you met - it makes you feel young again :-)

  7. How I love how you write. You soo captured the heart of homecoming and traveling back to memories of days gone by. Soo glad you got to go and enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  8. Such a great remembrance! Thanks for sharing it, Joyce. Great photos!

  9. What a wonderful, romantic story! I so enjoyed it.

  10. Thanks for the memories! So many wonderful things happened on that campus, and at the house next door to hub's fraternity house! :)
    That campus is also where CH & my story started. It certainly is a MOST special place! BTW: Did you know that the Lamb building is suppose to be haunted? Glad I didn't spend any late nights in there! :)

  11. Your post gave me the chills! So beautiful!

  12. Allison is headed to the school my husband and I went to... We never even suggested such a move but I think our reminiscing of those days made her want to seek the same for herself... I love those magic places of our early days!

  13. Looks like a wonderful time was a beautiful place with life long friends who will always be young at heart :-)

  14. Looks like a wonderful time in a beautiful place with life long friends :-)