Before there was speech, was there song? Before there was ready light, was there a flickering glow? The deepest reaches of the human heart seem to know these truths instinctively. That such simple sensory experiences — voices raised, candles held close, warm bodies seated side by side — can elicit such profound feelings of comfort, peace and kinship speaks to the power of embedded memory. Were we made to sing? To make music? To be together? To reflect? To connect?
After two years of dogged fundraising — and raising of eyebrows throughout Massachusetts — one woman’s dream became a reality. In a time when higher education for women did not exist. When educating women was seen not just as unnecessary, but as harmful and subversive.
The weather was glorious for hiking — sunny, breezy, not too hot. All day the ubiquitous greeting echoed off the trees and rocky cliffs of Mount Holyoke: “Happy Mountain Day!” “Happy Mountain Day!”
“It’s like we created a holiday for ourselves,” said one student. “It’s something we all do together, as a community. Everyone is happy. It’s a nice break from classes!”
My Mount Holyoke journey began with a jolt: culture shock. Followed by waves and pangs: homesickness.
I endured a 22-hour flight — my first solo intercontinental journey — and arrived in a country that my Nigerian parents and I knew mainly from maps and news stories. Where I had no parents to move me into my first residence hall room or help me adjust to foods so radically different from what I’d eaten all my life. Where I soon met 2,200 strangers who would become the closest thing I had to family in this new land.
My journey wrapped up with emotions cut from a much different cloth — pride, appreciation, awe, excitement, connections — as fittingly symbolized by the College’s Stoling ceremony.
You know you’re a Mount Holyoke student when, as the spring semester nears to a close, you start getting excited for Pangynaskeia Day. By putting it on your calendar. Mentioning it on social media. Hoping for sunny skies and warm temps. Digging out a favorite lawn blanket. All perhaps to the initial puzzlement of those beyond the College’s gates.
“What’s … that? What do you mean? Where are you going?” asks your younger sibling or high school friend or parent.
“Oh, it’s just a spring thing!” you reply with a smile. That smile of knowing that at Mount Holyoke, a bevy of fascinating and slightly curious traditions continues with reckless abandon.