Special Edition: Town? Gown? Why Not Both?

I think I’m a bit of an anomaly for a Hamiltonian. I was “gown” when we first moved here, almost eighteen years ago. We chose to move to Hamilton for Colgate University, and the job opportunity it provided. And because of that, we had the inside track for events. We knew when someone fun was visiting, both officially and unofficially. We got first dibs on great tickets. We got to meet, shake hands and shoot the breeze with the likes of Adonal, Kevin Spacey and Patricia Polacco. But somewhere in our years of living here, we became “town.” We became un-associated with the university, just another family living and raising kids here. We’ve lived on both sides of the fence, being part of the “in-crowd” for a while, then looking at things from an outsider’s perspective. I’ve never really felt like an outsider though. Maybe I don’t feel that way because I’ve always been the fringe element, not fitting in, but fitting around. I don’t always hear about all of the events going on up on campus or around town anymore, but maybe that’s in part because I don’t always look.

There is give and take in being a part of a college community, especially with a school like Colgate. We’re lucky to have the opportunities provided in our small town, for both young and old. But that also means we need to deal with the likes of some entitled Colgate students. We have the Hamilton Eatery, in large part, I believe, because of the university, but it means we also have to put up with hours that accommodate the university, and not always the locals, who would kill for a mac ‘n’ cheese on a July afternoon. We get fireworks throughout the year, but we also know we will probably be eating at home that weekend because the restaurants will be full. We get a summer concert series, put on by the village, but fueled by the people who choose to live in a college community, whether they are affiliated with the school or not.

I wouldn’t say I have a love/hate relationship with the school; I think it is more of a love/tolerate one. I’m realistic about the opportunities provided because of their presence. I’m grateful for them. My kids wouldn’t have had the opportunity, in their small school, to be introduced to French, Spanish and Chinese, if it weren’t for the students coming down to volunteer their time and knowledge. We wouldn’t have seen Ashton, the Dalai Lama, Hillary. There wouldn’t be May dumpster diving for designer duds, often with tags still on. And for that, I tolerate the crowds on move-in day; the traffic on parents’ weekend; no parking on a Friday evening when I try to get my pizza and wings from NY Pizzeria, not Slices; dodging the “debris”-strewn sidewalks on a Sunday morning walk through downtown. It’s like putting up with Winter in Central New York. It is bearable because we look forward to Spring, we appreciate the warmer temperatures when they finally come, after the long, cold winter. Like the arrival of Spring, we know, come the middle of May, when the wildflowers spring up along the towpath, we get our sleepy town back, with parking and quiet and clean sidewalks. We get a respite from the craziness of the school year.