Where we are from: Dispatches from home

Courtesy of Ila Kumar

My house lies exactly 0.2 miles from Vassar College but has in certain ways become a distant place: I don’t eat dinner there anymore, all that is left in my closet are jeans that don’t fit me and winter boots, my little brother doesn’t talk to me every morning on the drive to school, we can’t sing “You’re So Vain” coming down the bend on Route 9 through the black tupelo windbreaks that calm the nerves. 

 I live all the way on the fourth floor of Joss. In my dorm room, every card I’ve received from my boyfriend graces my wall. He, unlike other people I love, feels further away; he is in Michigan. Directly and flatly in front of me lies evidence of two birthdays, Christmas, the night I submitted my first college application and an apology from a fight. I can tell which cards are from the beginning of the relationship—they are signed “XOXO”—and those that come later—signed “Love.”

The objects you choose to take when moving to a new place tell a story, a defined shape and emotional investment that elicits sentimentality. On this campus, our things represent a shared language, the common experience of transporting bits of our homes to college. Each of our special items breaks the bridges from life before this, but then gives each island a fairytale that makes it unique and represents a contingency of style. 

Courtesy of Ila Kumar

Gabe Hackel’s ’25 room in Cushing is lined with a variety of movie posters that include “Harry Potter,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Inception” and “The Truman Show.” He and his roommate, Jude Borromeo ’25, bonded over their love of movies and agreed on each poster together before they moved in. Ricardo Reyna ’25 told me that he has the Texas state flag hanging in his room. When I asked him why, he told me something I had never heard before: “When you are from Texas and someone asks where you’re from, you always say the state—it’s part of Texas pride; it’s just something you do.”

Madeline Galian ’25 showed me the collage on her wall in Cushing, which includes her little sister’s drawing of a fox. She also has clip outs from Vassar’s Grey Matters Journal. Galian apologized for destroying the magazine, but countered, “They were giving them out for free!” Her roommate, Tajbiha Faisal ’25, has a framed charcoal drawing of her and her brother hanging above her desk. She told me they visited Times Square and noticed that there was one portrait artist no one was going to: “So I was pestering my brother like, ‘Can we go to him!?’ I made him waste all his money on me and get the portrait of us two. It’s important to me because my brother is so important to me. He’s like my second mother, you know?”

Lydia Wright’s ’25 object is less permanent. She carries bubble wands wherever she goes. “I think they’re really cheerful, and I have a bunch of them in every room at home. I give them to people, and they bring the room together,” Wright explained. 

Liz Kendrick ’25 has a stolen trophy in her room in Josselyn. “I was friends with this kid named Dean. He’s very mysterious; he carries an umbrella everywhere, even if it’s not raining. He’s really into math and probability and picking locks,” she detailed. “My friends and I convinced him to pick the lock of this tower that was in the gym of my old school.” After Dean picked the lock, in the middle of the night, Kendrick and her friends broke into the gym, climbed the tower, and found all sorts of old trophies. She explained, “We have like eight Olympians that went to my school—and I stole the trophy that was from the 1996 medley relay in swimming.” 

Case Parsons ’25 told me he has a cardboard cutout of his mini doxie, Beri, above his desk in Joss. Antonio Ferraiolo Costa ’25 has a polaroid wall of all his new friends in Main, complemented by a Borat flag. Devyn Benson ’25 wears a rose quartz around his neck. His older brother Harry gave it to him; they are nine years apart. As Benson elaborated, “Growing up, I didn’t really have him that much in my life. After college, he had a fellowship where he traveled for a year by himself, so I didn’t get to see him at all, which was hard on me, especially ‘cause I was starting high school and going on my own journey.” When Harry returned, he gave his brother the rose quartz from Calcutta, a symbol of unconditional love. Benson told me he wears it under his shirt so it’s close to his heart.

Then there’s Steven Bliefer ’25 and his camera, a Canon AE-1 purchased by his grandfather in 1978. Bliefer’s father went to Vassar, and his grandfather used this camera to photograph Bliefer’s dad during his time here. Now, as a Vassar student himself, Bliefer uses this camera to document his own journey at Vassar.

The last person I talked to was Julia Colón ’25. She lives in Davison. Her walls are bare except for three small posters, her “holy trinity.” There’s one of the “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” album cover, a silhouette of Milwaukee’s skyline (her hometown) and a court-side shot of Buck’s player Giannis Antetokounmpo. She expects most people reading this article to only know Milwaukee because the Bucks won the NBA championship this year. Then she added, “But we do go to Vassar so maybe not.” Colón said she wants me to bring home a Bucks t-shirt for my little brother, who loves basketball. I would like to drive him to school every day but things are different these days. Exactly 0.2 miles away from here, my brother is creating his own island and fairytales, collecting his own things he’ll one day take to college. For now, I will give him a t-shirt and promise to tell him a funny story.

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