Blacksburg is home to me. I love it. I love every single thing about it.
There’s no doubt that the root of it comes from being a Hokie. That giddy feeling when you catch your first glimpse of the Drillfield after being gone for a while. When you remember that directly below the magnitude and elegance of Burruss Hall stands a memorial to remember what made this campus strong. Thursday night football games, coffee dates at Deets, walks around the Duck Pond, late nights in West AJ (before it got all snazzy), and oh-my-heavens-that-food.
I sat at West End today with my only undergraduate friend. And you better believe that I destroyed a Spicy Asian Chicken Wrap–whole wheat tortilla, white rice, lettuce, peppers, and onions. I said, “Load it up!” and laughed at my own cheesiness like a middle aged parent. Which is precisely how I feel walking around campus, though I’m just two years out.
I can’t get enough of this place. Maybe it’s that stretch of Prices Fork, right around Foxridge. I pass it twice daily as I head to and from work, and I am enamored by the rolling green hills that turn into mountains. Scattered are cows and tractors and that distinct Blacksburg smell (you know what I’m talking about) that, for some weird reason, I inhale.
Maybe it’s the New River–a place that hosted about a trillion dates for Morgan and I during Blacksburg summers. I love those private beaches where we’d wade out to the rocks, Morgan jumping off of them, and me screaming at him to be careful. We’d head down to the farm, load up his rusty pick-up truck with firewood, grab his guitar, and spend many an evening on the river banks.
Or it’s those first few miles of the Huckleberry Trail, starting right outside the public library. “First few” because, let’s be honest, that’s all I can do–but it’s just enough to take in the tree-lined paths that pass by the German Club Manor, where I married the love of my life. Lane Stadium, in all it’s Hokie glory, makes itself known at mile marker one. It’s at mile marker two where I just want to sit Indian-style on the path and sit in admiration of the farmland (and rest from two miles of running). The people you pass will smile and wave, and you’ll smile and wave back because it’s the South and that’s what we do.
I walked to class every day when I lived down South Main mainly for an excuse to not go to the gym, but inevitably got to walk down Draper and Preston, dreaming of the interiors of all those old homes. Who lives there and how do they get so lucky? My imagination convinces me that, behind those front doors, every house looks like the inside of Southern Living, and I love the thought of that. I never really want to see the insides because I’m certain reality isn’t quite as dreamy.
It’s Wine Wednesdays on Boudreaux’s rooftop, $6.25 pita pizza lunches at The Cellar, 50 cent day-old bread at Jimmy Johns, Tijuana Toss for free pizzas at PKs, fish tacos on the patio at Cabo, Arroz con Pollo at El Mariachis. We live 20 minutes from the heart of downtown Blacksburg, but our favorite Chinese restaurant is Chinese Kitchen and it never won’t be. On Valentine’s Day this year, it was a straight up blizzard, but we refused to get our “fancy take-out” from anywhere but CK. It took us a solid 2.5 hours to get there and back, and it was worth every minute and every laugh.
It’s Monday nights at The Lyric, where the free popcorn doesn’t stop popping and the movies are usually weird. We post up on the balcony, retrieve our Dollar Tree candy we’ve snuck in, and attempt to cuddle in those uncomfortable seats with the unmoving armrests. There’s a new theater in town, but The Lyric will forever be our go-to.
At work, we joke that I was a pretty pathetic Hokie. I was involved in one club on a campus boasting more than 700. I’m a horrible advocate for getting involved, but, when I found my people, my days were jam packed with laughs and love and a whole lot of joy. We weren’t raised there, but we grew up in Blacksburg. That place taught us how to truly live. It’s where I found Jesus, my husband, and my best friends.
Some people long for the hustle and bustle of a city, filled with new and exciting things to do. For me, though, I long for this: to drink Mill Mountain coffee on my back porch, go for a run on the Huck, pick up lunch downtown and throw out a blanket on campus for an impromptu picnic. Listen to local music. People-watch the townies at coffee shops. I love when Hokie Game Days make what is now my home full of traffic. I long for Mays when students leave, but also for Augusts when they return.
About a month ago, I was stopped on the sidewalk and asked to take a picture of a family visiting campus with their high school senior. I asked the senior what her plans were next year, and it was music to my ears when she said that, before that day, she’d been planning to go to another university about 150 miles east of us. She said, “But there’s no way I’m not coming here now that I’ve seen it.”
For all graduates this weekend–congratulations. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. Come back as often as you possibly can. Go lay in the middle of the Drillfield one last time. Sit at the Pylons and breathe it in. Blacksburg steals a little piece of your heart when you leave. When September rolls around and football season reinstates, you’ll get this aching in your bones for turkey legs, Enter Sandman, and a sea of maroon and orange.
And it’ll welcome you home.