We had barely pulled into Morgantown for a visit with our son, a freshman at West Virginia University, when he had asked us to make a Target run. When we got back to his dorm, he pulled the shopping bags out of our SUV like they were coming off an assembly line, handing them out one after another. The bags were full of snacks and everything else that a college freshman could ask for or want.
We started the walk up the hill to his dorm and I automatically thought back six weeks earlier to college move-in day. We needed one of those large red bins on wheels that most colleges have for students and had to make several trips to cart all of his belongings. I feared that the cart would get away from us at any minute, roll down the hill, and cause all kinds of unimaginable damage. We were ready this time around though, we had brought reinforcements with us. Besides my wife and I, we had brought our two older children too and we all had a bag or two.
The walk to his dorm took our breath away, just like last time, but it somehow seemed lighter. We were all in a good mood. Our daughter joked about her brother eating all of the junk food in one sitting. Our other son took the challenge of teasing his younger brother one step further, questioning whether he wasn’t paying someone to take notes and skipping his 8:30 a.m. Calculus class. I couldn’t help but laugh at how times had changed. My last trip to Morgantown I wanted to cry, now I couldn’t stop laughing.
I guess you could say I’ve come to feel differently about Morgantown and much of West Virginia. I’ve fallen in love with the beauty of the mountains. I knew that would happen. I grew up in Central Pennsylvania and have always loved the outdoors. I wasn’t expecting though to fall in love with the locals who welcomed us to Morgantown. The students have even helped to calm my worries. When we passed several on our short visit, instead of whispering and making fun of the crazy, old people taking all the photos of the college buildings, they nodded and said hello. The campus felt like home.
When our son visited Morgantown in high school, the town seemed so spread out. I couldn’t imagine how he would make his way to his classes from one end of town to the other. I still wasn’t sure until he snuck us on the PRT (Personal Rapid Transit) and we got to see how easy it was to get across campus. The PRT ride was our daughter’s idea. The thrill seeker of the bunch, I’m sure she was hoping for something more akin to an amusement park ride, but the PRT still fit the bill. One minute we were downtown, the next we were in the Evansdale campus, near Milan Puskar Stadium, making our way to the Mountaineer Taphouse restaurant to celebrate.
A whole new person
My thoughts changed for another reason. I couldn’t help but notice how happy my son has become and how comfortable he is with his new surroundings. When we dropped him off initially, he was full of nervous excitement. We had to walk on eggshells around him. When my wife asked if she could help him arrange his closet, he shut her down, saying “no,” but immediately regretted his decision and asked for help.
This time around he was confident and sure of himself. He took us downtown and showed off the city like he was the mayor. If not the mayor, then certainly a city council member. He talked about the new friends he had made and how they had gone out to eat at the High Street Canteen and Eliza’s Coffee Shop. He compared pizza joints and claimed that the best pizza hands down was Papa Allen’s. When we passed Coombs Flowers on High Street, he made a note to stop back another time (without us.)
He even talked about going to a Mountaineers game and singing “Country Roads” and taking us to Coopers Rock on our next visit. He was confident and relaxed. If I didn’t know any better, he could’ve passed for a native.
Yes, he’s found his home and, maybe, I have too.