Fall in the Forest has always been beautiful, but the fall of 2021 is especially enchanting. After almost two long years of lockdowns and uncertainties, this fall marks a big step in the direction of getting to the other side of the pandemic. With nearly everyone being fully vaccinated, we are no longer plagued by the constant fear of getting COVID or being sent to the Best Western.
Walking to class every morning is a luxury that I didn’t have until this semester. Instead of waking up five minutes before 9 a.m. Spanish, I actually have a reason to get out of bed and give structure to my day. As much as slow walkers annoy me, I love the chaos of walking down the quad when it is crowded.
Large groups of people are dressed in grey hoodies, someone is yelling on the phone, a stressed STEM student is sprinting to their chemistry lab, the speaker kid is meandering around and, of course, athletes on scooters are nearly running over lost freshmen Wake Forest feels alive again.
I could tell you all about how the fall breeze causes the delicate leaves of magnolias to sway, but I have always been more of a people-watcher than a nature-lover. There is something inherently motivating about seeing people out and about. The business school students in their crisp shirts and fancy shoes waltzing around the Pit are my favorites to observe. Sure, the lines at the Pit can be reminiscent of Disneyland, but at this time last year, I longed to eat at a table with four people.
Last week, when I was at the men’s soccer game against Pittsburgh, it dawned on me just how much joy crowds can bring. With Spry operating at full capacity, there were no more cardboard cutouts in the stands to make the team feel better about the empty stadium. The hill and the bleachers were filled with excited fans dressed in black and gold to cheer on the Deacs. The “Wake Forest” chants were interspersed with passionate guys in section four heckling the other team and little kids in soccer jerseys running down the bleachers. The cheers were as loud as ever when we won 3-1. The celebration was so much sweeter because everyone was together to witness it. At least for one night, the players, students, professors and locals put the crushing weight of the Delta variant aside to immerse themselves in some college soccer.
We have come a long way from when the world came to a standstill in March 2020. I am aware that we are still battling this pandemic. Yet, I can’t help but cherish the comfort of the Wake Forest bubble.
It truly does feel like Disneyland.
Long lines and slow walkers aside, Mother so Dear is magical in the sense that it brought us all together. We had a shared experience of going through perhaps the loneliest time of our lives, now we will always have that in common.