BY MIA PENNEKAMP ’20
The first time I saw Mount Holyoke it was summer. Everything was green. I wore white jeans and sandals, the sun browning my spaghetti strap-clad shoulders. There was powdered sugar on my jean jacket from a drive-thru donut shop (my mom came, so there had to be donuts). We toured the campus and she walked quickly ahead of me, her curls wild, shoes platformed and button-down tucked in. We spent the day exploring the valley and ended with white wine, pizza and conversation over a small wooden table in Northampton. “What did you think?” she wanted to know, clearly smitten herself. She had the giddy excitement of a school girl. The hazed eyes of infatuation, lovesick off her own college reminiscing — North Carolina in the ’80s. I had one burning question: “Mom,” I asked, “seriously, why is everyone lying in the grass?”
I had never seen so many motionless bodies outside on the ground. People with their eyes closed, soaking in the sun. I found it extremely odd, unsettling even. I grew up in perpetual heat. 365 days of sweat, palm trees and teeny bikinis. I would drive past deep blue ocean and city skyline without glancing up. My feet were deeply calloused from always choosing to go barefoot. I’d straighten my curls, cursing as the hammering humidity permeated the coconut oil that swore up and down to keep my hair smooth, shiny, Barbie doll-synthetic. “Your best hair ever.” I was confused, standing in my white skinny jeans. What is up with the bodies in the grass?
I didn’t know the feeling of frozen fingers and toes. Wet, sloshy, windy. Soaked dirty sneakers. Soft, pale feet. Feet so soft from socks and shoes that when you step on a plastic spiked fairy light in your dorm room you scream and bleed. I didn’t know perpetual grey. No green, no blue, only months of monochrome. I didn’t know the haunting smell of a fur hood when it gets wet, or how easy it is to slip on ice. I hadn’t experienced sisterhood, blossoming from carbs and vino and laying it all out on the table because we are stuck here in this room for God knows how long. I didn’t know the sweetness of the first sunshine. The return of the grass. The glaringly obvious shift in campus mood. Ice cream, shorts and teeny bikinis on the Delles Hill. First dates at Puffer’s Pond.
I knew none of this when I first saw Mount Holyoke in the summer. A bewildered chick covered in powdered sugar, smug with her tan lines. Now I lay in the grass. A still body with my jeans rolled up and my shirt discarded. Let me tell you, it feels so good.