Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Trip Back Home Under the Dome

Our entire family was presented with an amazing opportunity to spend a few days on campus at the University of Notre Dame. Longtime followers of this blog know that me and Paul both graduated from Notre Dame and basically fell in love during our time on campus. We became engaged while taking one of our daily strolls around Saint Mary's Lake, in full view of the glowing dome and the magnificent cross atop the steeple of the Sacred Heart Basilica. We honestly believe in our hearts that it is the greatest school on earth but may be a bit biased since we had such a fantastic experience growing, maturing, and discovering our vocations there. We always tell the kids, "If it hadn't been for Notre Dame, you might not be here!"

Definitely true.

Anyway, we jumped at the opportunity to come back on campus as guests of the University so Paul could participate in the ABET accreditation discussions for the Engineering Department. They graciously provided us with a spacious suite in the Morris Inn, the hotel right on campus off of Main Circle, and were more than accommodating towards our young family. The kids, especially Matthew, were looking forward to the trip for weeks ahead of time. Matthew was to miss two full days but his teacher was more than gracious about it and provided me with a list of all his work to catch up on while he was away. Matthew's ultimate goal is to be a student at Notre Dame one day and we constantly remind him whenever he starts to groan about his homework that it takes a lot of hard work and persistence to be admitted into his dream school. He loves everything about the school and was so psyched to tour it again. On the drive to South Bend, he kept listing all the sights on campus he wanted to see, especially adamant that he had to see inside of the Golden Dome this visit since we didn't get to do that last time we visited.

Thankfully, the weather was beautiful the entire time despite the thunderstorm predictions I had been stressing about during our drive. I must learn how to chill about things I can't control. They usually work out for the best anyway! We couldn't have asked for a more beautiful time.

Matthew was so happy to be on campus. He loves everything about it. The girls were happy to be out touring too, as long as they were pushed in their carriage stroller. They lead rough lives. Emma was the truly lazy one - never once did she walk further than 10 feet without being pushed. Lucy, however, did step out every now and then to run after Matthew.

She also attempted to pick every flower on campus...

One of our favorite spots on campus is the beautiful, quiet grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. The kids are also huge fans of the grotto because they have an obsession with fire. They love choosing a candle and then, with careful guidance, lighting and placing it in the holders. In fact, we had a tough time getting Lucy to leave the "happy birthdays" and come say a prayer with the rest of us. We all lit candles for Grandpa Nistler to be healed of his recent sufferings.

Then, we showed Matthew the inside of the dome as promised. He was impressed, but Lucy was especially mesmerized. Then she decided to start rolling on the floor, so it was time to leave before we disturbed the peace!

I also took the kiddos through some of the science buildings and showed them all the preserved and stuffed animals on display in the Biodiversity Museum/Laboratory. I explained to Matthew that I did a lot of studying in that lab when I was studying vertebrate biology and, since he wants to be a paleontologist one day, that he will probably have to take that course too! I'm not sure he was listening because around that time he spotted the gigantic T-Rex skull they had on display all the way from Montana. He was such a happy kid.

Next, we paid a visit to Touchdown Jesus and then held hands with Fr. Hesburgh and Father Joyce.

Later, I took the kids on a tour of the Holy Cross Cemetery to find the graves of some Notre Dame greats, like Father Lyons, Father Zahm, and Father Hesburgh. I tried to tell them the story of each priest as we found their grave, like how Father Zahm was a science professor at the University who adamantly professed his belief that the theory of evolution was not at odds with Catholic teaching, a wildly unpopular idea at the time. I also told the kids about going to visit Father Hesburgh in his office on the top of the library while I was an undergraduate. Since he was blind, he loved having students come to read to him or discuss their studies with him. I showed Matthew the famous photograph of Father Hesburgh linking hands with Martin Luther King Jr. at a civil rights rally at Soldier Field in Chicago. Matthew, a huge admirer of Dr. King, found this especially impressive.

Perhaps another reason Notre Dame feels like home is that I have so many siblings living around the University. My brother Raymond and his wife Mary live and work in the local area, as does my younger sister Sophie. My sister Jane is also a freshman this year at Saint Mary's College, the all-girls school right across the street from Notre Dame. I was looking forward to seeing how Jane was settling into college life, so the kids and I made the short walk across campus into Saint Mary's territory. Saint Mary's has a very small but quite beautiful campus, with plenty of trees, open spaces, and impressive architecture. It's very quiet compared to Notre Dame, but the tranquility is rather charming and intimate. Jane showed us her favorite study spot, a remote location on a small island in the middle of a pond where stands a large statue of Our Lady nearby.

The kids of course had to all get a picture with Mother Mary.

After that, we headed to Jane's dorm to check out the her digs and get the kids loaded up on sugar. Not the best of ideas because then they went crazy and we had to leave before they destroyed the very cute, but very small room. On the way back, we stopped to feed the ducks at Saint Mary's Lake and then headed back to our hotel to pick up Paul and head out for a Mexican dinner to celebrate Aunt Jane's 19th birthday! We made her wear a sombrero as the staff sang to her and then she got to try her very first Chaco Taco!  Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera to record the shenanigans, which Jane was quite grateful for, but everyone enjoyed sharing the Chaco Taco.

Then, Jane gave Paul and me the greatest gift every by offering to watch the children for us as they went to bed and allowing us to take a walk together - alone! - around campus just as we used to do almost a decade ago! We wandered around the lake, revisited our engagement spot, lit another candle at the grotto, attended the 10 pm Mass at Alumni Hall, drooled over the candy bins at the Huddle, and strolled around the gigantic new monstrosity stadium addition. So many sweet, sweet memories made together here!

It's always so hard to leave a place you hold so dear. We are so grateful to the University for providing us with the opportunity to enjoy such a relaxing visit. Until next time, our hearts forever love thee Notre Dame.

1 comment:

  1. How fun and special to get to take the kids back to where you fell in love! I've drug Luke through my college campus a few times but it doesn't quite have the same importance since Matt didn't go there too (even though he visited a lot). Loved seeing this!