It was a ruse that took me to Lysander Hall, an emergent gathering of several finance committee members, a troubling last minute change to fees or somesuch.
Yet, when the doors were thrown open, I was embraced by colleagues and not a few current and past students, who arrayed themselves brightly against the backdrop of the utilitarian meeting room that was fresh-festooned with garlands, balloons, ribbons, and so on.
They were there, and they rushed me, and I confess my eyes would not stay dry for their celebration.
Piers was there, one of my oldest colleagues. "You, my friend, will be next," I said into his ear. "And I will return to make sure they get you all the way out!"
Phoebe kissed my cheek, one of many for the day, but the only one I received from a Vice President. "You are my favorite," she said to me. "And I am yours," I said.
Myron, a lively former student, was next to greet me. He had struggled - or so he remembers - in my class, but now ran a local TV station. "Dr. Yaro," he said, but then I saw, he, too, had need to wipe his eyes. "Dr. Yaro," he said again. His wife, also a former student, did not let him finish as she embraced me as well.
I was beginning to take it in, the immense pleasure of the day when our president brought Mrs. Yaro in a side door. And then, I, Yaro, must admit, the tears began in earnest. "You," I said, "you helped them with this?" "I did, dear," my wife said. "I knew you'd say no, but these people, they wanted you to know."
And it was that way for near 2 hours. Some funny memories, some embarrassments, even a mildy ribald tale about a conference years ago in Columbus, Ohio, from that cad Adriano, a compatriot from Political Science. "Yaro may say he does not remember this night," Adriano had started, and my cheeks must have flushed.
Then the gifts, and a smorgasbord, and cakes.
And I was overwhelmed and exhausted, yet happy, happy that this had been my home, and these my friends.
I had been plagued over the past months worrying about my decision, not that it was not carefully decided, nor that it was the wrong thing to do. But just that I began to feel so replaceable. So swift had the machinery of the university spun into action, a job ad - my job - a committee, the folders. I've seen them. I've been asked to aid the committee in their efforts. "Someone with a newer wardrobe," my colleague Calista had teased, pulling at some wandering threads on my coatsleeve.
It had thrust itself upon me, the idea that someone would be here in this space, in my place, within months, a new face, a new colleague, someone fresh - with such a new coat! - ready to challenge the coming years of classrooms filled with young charges looking for the next step along their journeys. And that new face would not be mine.
How far away would this place feel to me, how swift would I forget all of it, my life in the academy, my colleagues, the people who filled my autumns and springs?
Perhaps I worried for no reason. For I would not forget them, this place. I would never forget a thing.
I will always be theirs, and yours,