Twenty-five years after she was a Baylor freshman, Dot Thompson is back on campus with her son, Jerry, Class of ’78 . . . .
By Dot Thompson
We walked into the Student Union Building and I sank gratefully into a booth in the Cub, trying very much not to look like the mother of a freshman. I watched my son as he stood in line waiting to have his ID picture made. He, too, wore his best nonchalant air. Funny, I thought, how we never want anyone to see us doing something for the first time.
The feeling was familiar to me. It had washed over me repeatedly as I had done many things for the first time at the beginning of my year as a Baylor freshman. Now, twenty-five years and four children later, I had returned to the campus, accompanying my oldest son as he attended orientation in preparation for fall registration.
The morning had been a full one. We had met administrators and many of the faculty members, bought a picture directory of entering freshmen (an advance look at date possibilities never hurt anyone!), clucked over the current bear mascot, climbed the three flights of Union Building stairs enough times to last until graduation, learned where to buy books and toothpaste and visited with a former classmate of mine, also with son in tow.
While we were having coffee in the Drawing Room, we moved from one table to another, learning about the insured tuition plan, the activities of the BSU, the R.O.T.C., the band and choirs, the honors program, the SUB board, etc. At one table we found recorded the scores Jerry had made on advanced placement exams— one necessary sheet of paper we had mistakenly left at home.
To satisfy my maternal concerns, we had done a quick tour of the dorm where Jerry would live, including a look at a room identical to the one he would occupy. The patient dorm counselor had taken us down the hall to point out the merits of the adequate, though barren, room. A few throw pillows, a carpet remnant and a cheerful bedspread should go a long way toward creating a less institutional look. And linen service, yet! Scratch sheets off the shop-ping list.
Later, while I chased memories around Alexander Hall, Jerry had met with his faculty advisor and discussed course selections. He now had in hand an approved list of course choices, to which he would add a class schedule on registration day.
Since on-campus employment would be a financial must, we had contacted the Placement Center during the morning to see what opportunities were open. Working in the dining hall of the freshman women’s dorm seemed to have particular appeal and Jerry had soon signed his name to a work agreement contract.
As I watched him inch up in line toward the camera, I estimated that we had accomplished in about four hours the equivalent of my first week of stumbling around the campus. He already knew the names and locations of more buildings than had existed the year I bought my slime cap. In his hand he held four or five brochures and booklets, all of which he would need to study carefully between now and the day he would move into the dorm.
During the morning I had been pleased to find so many things the same— the chimes that had regulated my college days, the friendly warmth from those we passed, the Bear Pit, the walk from Waco Hall to Pat Neff Hall. I also ached with the memories of the first time I stood on the curb and watched my mom and dad drive away. I was sure Jerry and the other freshmen would have some of the same feelings when they returned in a few weeks to stay. But, hopefully, the well-planned day we were spending could cut significantly for him the number of lines necessary at that time and much of the frustration that accompanies new experiences.
As a parent, I would certainly approach that day with much more assurance that all had been done to make his transition from home to university life as smooth as possible.
And parents need that!
Dorothy Kennedy Thompson is a member of the pastoral staff of the Second Baptist Church in Lubbock and a frequent contributor to denominational magazines. She attended Baylor in 1949-50 and was graduated in 1953 from Texas Tech with a BA in journalism.