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Love thee

| Friday, March 20, 2020

I remember the first time I sang the Notre Dame Alma Mater, mostly because I didn’t know it at all. I caught on quickly enough, after practicing during Welcome Weekend and every football Saturday of our first year. Arguably, it doesn’t matter if you know all the words, just as long as you get to the final “Love thee” line.

It’s a simple phrase, ”love thee,” one that we use often enough during football seasons when we gather at the culmination of the final quarter.

As our class sits out our final quarter, watching the action unfold from the solitude of our couches, I realize how much I value these two words.

I went for a run yesterday, since I returned to my off-campus apartment this weekend and needed the fresh air. I was able to run in the middle of the day: no one got in my way, the path ahead was clear. I had the campus to myself, and I hated it. It no longer felt like space, it was emptiness.

Never in the past three years have I longed to return to the living conditions of my freshman-year quad, a room where social distancing could have no existence. But the constraint of space forced me to look ahead to sophomore year, when I would finally have a room of my own.

It is that constraint of space, as well as of time and energy that propels us from the start. Will I be able to fit that last box of clothes? Can I make it to DeBart by 9:25? Should I read the end of this chapter now or realize that I’m no good for work on a Thursday night?

We were facing one last constraint, seeing how much we could pack into our final months at Our Lady‘s University. The opportunities seemed infinite. There was no way to cram them all in, but we were sure as hell going to try. The race against the clock meant nothing to us; we were the Notre Dame Class of 2020.

But the dimensions have flipped on us, as they have for nearly everyone. Our extra days of break and minutes saved by not physically walking to class cannot be filled with trips to Olfs, intramural games or a chance encounter with a friend as you walk out of the gym.

It was precisely because the gym was closed that I took my run outside yesterday, and I did not see a single classmate.

I saw plenty of buildings, but what good are they with no one to gather in them?

One day, Hesburgh Library will be filled again with students cramming for midterms, as well as those people who are simply studying there to escape their too-small dorm rooms.

And one day the people in their too-small dorm rooms will be able to laugh while they complain about how their beds would never be conducive to social distancing. And one day these people climb out of these beds and put on their blue, green and gold and walk out the door with their roommates, on their way to a tailgate and football game. And at the end of the game they will huddle together and sing the Alma Mater, and tell Notre Dame that they “love thee.”

My only hope is that they say it to everyone around them as well, because there is no one around campus for me to say it to now.

Gretchen Hopkirk


Mar. 18

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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