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Family in Bookstore and beyond

Kate Gales | Friday, May 18, 2007

In fourth grade, I went out for the school basketball team. I played mostly forward for the St. Leo’s Lions “C” team for the next two years, and managed to play on the “B” team in sixth grade.

Of course, I use the term “play” loosely. Even in fourth grade, it is possible to tell the natural basketball players from those perhaps more suited to soccer or swimming or field hockey, and I fell into the latter group.

But my three years of basketball experience made me the most experienced player on 2006’s “You Think We’re Bad, But You Have No Idea” Bookstore Basketball team. As such, I assumed the role of point guard and power forward.

It is not surprising that my team was shut out 21-0 in our debut last year, and managed to score just one legitimate point this year (although we managed to convince our freshman opponents to allow us to score a few toward the end of the game to lessen our margin of loss). My former coaches and teammates would probably say that I have actually gotten worse since my days of grade-school basketball, although my court vision has significantly improved now that I no longer wear glasses.

But in many ways, my experience with Bookstore Basketball brings together the things I love about Notre Dame – my friends, the athletic atmosphere, and family tradition. The English major in me sees this experience as a symbol for the past four years. Perhaps that’s a stretch, but my Bookstore experience has mirrored the most important parts of my college experience in three important ways.

They say college is what you make of it, and I credit my friends for making the little everyday things into memories I will always cherish. Whether it is being one of Bookstore Basketball’s least talented teams, putting together outfits for every possible SYR theme, planning parties, going grocery shopping or just laying around on the couch watching Friends and talking (it might surprise you how much time we can spend doing this), these people have shaped the contours of the past four years. We were brought together by fate and the freshman housing system and held together by a love for Finnegan’s, TV on DVD and Notre Dame football.

Notre Dame football brings me to the next reason that Bookstore Basketball is, in a microcosm, my Notre Dame experience. Sports are crucial to being a part of campus life at Notre Dame. I trace back some of my strongest friendships to walking onto the Cavanaugh interhall football team at the beginning of freshman year. Although I never cracked the two-deep (honestly, I’m not as unathletic as the column is making me sound), my time on the sidelines gave me time to solidify friendships, particularly with other non-starting defensive players. Our social lives in the fall are dominated by the football schedule, with the occasional road trips to games that prove to be among the most memorable ones of college (see: Michigan 2005 and my national TV debut, or Michigan State 2006 and the most horrible rainstorm in the history of the world). I also felt that tailgating brought me closer to my friends’ families and, in turn, helped them get to know mine better.

This, of course, leads to the last part of Bookstore Basketball as a metaphor for the past four years: family. One of the accomplishments of which my father (Charlie Gales ’82) is most proud is graduating from college with a winning record in Bookstore Basketball. Although I went 0-3, I was proud to be a part of the tradition of both my school and my family. After the upsetting shutout loss in 2006, Dad comforted me by sending me pictures of his teams in the old Bookstore tournaments. I don’t know if they were intended to cheer me up, but the belted sweatpants he was wearing significantly dulled the pain of my defeat.

But family is, for me, the most important part of my college experience. Although I have been hundreds of miles away from them for the past four years, I have learned so much from my parents especially. When you introduce your family to your college friends for the first time, you can sometimes see them in a different light. As my friends got to know my parents, I saw them in a different way, as more than just the people who raised, disciplined and supported me for 22 years. They are the most freely giving, welcoming and loving people I have ever been privileged to know. I am so proud to have them watch me graduate this weekend and I hope that they have always been proud of me (if not my prowess, or lack thereof, on the Bookstore courts).

My sister will enter Notre Dame in August as a freshman. I have such faith that she will carry on the Wentling/Gales tradition even better than I have (she tends to outdo me in things). I don’t think she really needs my advice. But there is one thing that I have learned over the past four years. At Notre Dame, you will probably never be the “best” at anything. You will be surrounded by some of the best and brightest young people in the country and in the world. But no one else will bring what you do to Notre Dame. And that is what makes every person so important to this University, in creating “the Notre Dame family.”

I try to avoid Notre Dame clichés like that one. But for me, the Notre Dame family is forever intertwined with my own family. Since my parents likely would never had met if not for attending Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, I give Notre Dame a certain amount of credit for the fact that I exist at all. I am so honored to be a part of both of these families. Although my basketball skills may not be a credit to them, I hope that the person I have become always gives back to them both.

Kate Gales is a graduating English and marketing double major. She can be contacted at kgales@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.