Northampton ❥ Life in a College Town

Mash Notes to Paradise by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Note 6, Living in a College Town

As a neighbor to Smith College, such things as its museum, botanical gardens and the rarely crowded post office in its campus center are features I benefit from in daily life.

In the mornings, I drop my kids off and walk a loop around the Smith College Campus, passing Paradise Pond and continuing up the hill toward the chapel. One morning last year, I realized that amongst the things I’m grateful for living here is this one: I will always know what an 18-year-old looks like.

❥  The rhythms of Campus Life—how every school year includes a big reminder of newness in the form of orientations and parents dropping kids off for the very first time and new Smithies navigating their way downtown like schools of fish and signs of welcome on bed sheets and flash mob traffic—define everyone in proximity to the campuses. Even if the terrifying jaywalking tendencies of otherwise smart college students are vexing, so much about living in a college-rich area delights me. I have become accustomed to things that might have otherwise caught me off-guard like visible piercings, tattoos and any color hair (or none).

In this college-rich area, there are always more lectures, concerts and controversies than I can possible keep track of, let alone attend. I love that. I feel as if living here boredom isn’t an option. You can just go learn something new. I love knowing that some of my retired friends take classes and I love that Northampton High School Students have that opportunity. Case in point: my tenth grader anxiously awaited Mountain Day this fall. I live close enough to Smith College’s Helen Hills Hills Chapel to hear the bells at seven on Mountain Day morning. I have always loved how that campus ritual spills into the ‘hood.

No doubt, some of the café-ice cream-frozen yogurt-pizza-hip clothes-cheap haircuts et al relies upon the college base, in part, but the rest of us get all those goodies, too.

I love how students get involved with community activists over everything from Presidential elections to Troy Davis’ execution to the Pride March.

I love how students get involved with community activists over everything from Presidential elections to Troy Davis’ execution to the Pride March.

I love how students contribute to the local community in other ways.

I love how many graduates from the local colleges stay put. I love that my staying put allowed me to work at my alma mater, Hampshire, serve on its board of trustees and even give the convocation speech this fall.

As a neighbor to Smith College, such things as its museum, botanical gardens and the rarely crowded post office in its campus center are features I benefit from in daily life.

I love that living at the edge of campus means that college feels—for my kids—like such a very comfortable, familiar place. They’ve all attended schools right on the campus’ edge and interfaced, through, school with college students and the campus.

My sixth-grade buddy Emily told me she’d probably go to Smith because, “I know my way around the campus.” Remy’s pal Gabriel asked in first grade, “Mom, can boys go to college, too?” It’s easy to take for granted how fortunate we are to have college simply be a fact of life.

❥  Oh, and I love, love, love babysitters!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah is a writer, who lives in Northampton with her husband and four children. She appears in the ebook anthology Welcome to My World, contributes to Preview Massachusetts Magazine, as well as other publications, and writes a parenting blog Standing in the Shadows at the Valley Advocate. She moved to the Valley to attend Hampshire College—and found the Valley such a nice place, she stayed!

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