The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



My kindred spirits

Meghanne Downes | Friday, May 13, 2005

Almost three weeks ago, I stood at the front of the Walsh Hall chapel for senior Mass and offered up a baking dish as my senior memory.

Several in the audience were a little perplexed, but really all that mattered to me was the chorus of snickers and ridiculous smiles from a select few. That baking dish represented two things – my passion for everything of the chocolate chip cookie nature and my acceptance into the Notre Dame family. I am an only child who was essentially denied anything that wasn’t meat and potatoes (I grew up in an Irish family) and who always longed for – and well, still does – siblings.

I had found my “family” away from home and made lifelong friends beginning one weekend in early September of freshman year when my roommate forced me to eat my first chocolate chip cookie. Dozens of batches and countless conversations later, I had found my kindred spirits.

As I listened to the other memories, I realized we were not just sharing recollections about our friendships. These were memories that in many ways helped shape our journey from being awkward and immature freshmen to confident and prepared leaders. For the most part, we were sharing memories about our closest friends – friends we did not make at a meeting or in class but in our own dorms.

My baking dish was someone else’s picture, laundry cart, stuffed animal, scrap book, plaid Catholic school girl skirt or Pizza Hut coupon. They were all reflections of friendships, reinforcing what makes Notre Dame so special, the “family.”

Walsh’s senior Mass triggered a wave of sadness that the end really was approaching. While I had spent the previous seven semesters looking forward to being a “second semester senior” and living up college for the last time with my friends, I mostly walked around campus since spring break in denial that I was actually graduating and leaving this place.

In the three weeks since that night, I have come to realize that this is not the end. While college may be over and we may not see our closest friends daily, this does not mean we face the real world Monday with a clean slate or without any support. We will still have those special people that pepper our Notre Dame memories and as a member of the “family” we will still be very much a part of Notre Dame.

It amazes me the power of the Notre Dame “family” to not just build friendships but to unite past, future and subway alumni. Think of the number of times you met a Notre Dame person in the most random of places all because you were wearing an Irish sweatshirt.

This family is a truly powerful force. It drives the spirit of this University.

It will welcome us with open arms when we venture back to South Bend. It provides that foundation for those friendships we will never want to let slip away.

I learned early the power of Notre Dame’s family when less than a month after moving away from home, terror shook our country. The September 11 memorial Mass on South Quad is an image that will forever remain etched in my mind. This event united our class before any football game could, and it made us realize what we should value and appreciate in our lives. It, like so many other subsequent experiences during these four years, not only united us but taught us how to live.

A Notre Dame education is more than simply an education.

It is an experience.

It immerses students in academia, faith, school pride and friendship.

We leave here armed not only with a diploma, but with an academic and moral education, the Notre Dame spirit and the support of our friends.

Notre Dame gave us one of the most valuable gifts we will ever receive – those people on our left or right that we lit candles with last night at the Grotto, we will sing “Livin’ on a Prayer” with one last time together as college students at The ‘Backer (a tradition that began in a sweaty freshman dorm party), we will link arms with at Baccalaureate to sway to the alma mater and we will sit next to on Sunday in our caps and gowns.

These people you will stand with this weekend are for the most part the randomly assigned friends who helped you ask that SYR date to the dance, studied with you all night in DeBartolo, danced the jig with you atop the bleachers, partied with you at first The Boat Club and then Heartland and Corby’s, listened to you when you were sad, comforted you when you did not know your post-graduation plans, cheered for you at your sports game, celebrated with you when you turned 21, shared their highs and lows with you and, not only survived, but lived these past four years with you.

On Monday I will pack up my room and leave Notre Dame, but I will always have my Notre Dame family, especially my six kindred spirits.

Meghanne Downes is graduating with a degree in political science and peace studies and a minor in journalism. She would like to thank her dad for pushing her to excel and realize her potential, her mom for always believing in and inspiring her, her grandma for giving her both her courage and her stubbornness, Andrew both for pushing her and for his support, Shirley for all those morning smiles, and her friends for their love and for simply being them.

Finally, she would like to thank everyone at The Observer for all the laughs, the late nights, the tears, the arguments, the frustrations, the breaking stories, the friendships, and the pride she felt each morning when she picked up the paper and saw your accomplishments. But most of all she thanks you for the lessons that tested her and made her become a better person.

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