Memories Sparked by a Parking Space

Amy and I try to make a trip to Cookeville every couple of weeks or so. It’s Amy’s hometown and the place where her mother, Mary Alice, lives. She undergoes dialysis Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and must arrive at the center about 6:00 a.m.

I volunteer to take Amy’s mom to the center on Saturday morning when we’re in town. Because Cookeville is on Central Standard Time, I have little problem getting up and making sure we’re prompt for her sessions. I also enjoy driving around Cookeville and the Tennessee Tech campus before I pick up Mary Alice for her appointment. The trip around the college is filled with memories.

Each visit, I make sure to pass the football stadium. During my years at TTU, the football team played powerful games. NFL players such as Jim Youngblood (L.A. Rams), Mike Hennigan (N.Y. Jets), and Elois Grooms (N.O. Saints) gave opposing OVC teams fits in the early 70’s. The TTU band presented precision shows, and the music they played was entertaining. The parking lot on the south side of the stadium is smaller now than during my years in school. Commuters parked at the site during the day, but in the evenings it was loaded with couples who searched for a bit of privacy. In those days, no member of the opposite sex could visit another resident except on special occasions. The parking lot became a place for couples to see each other and not be harassed. The campus police patrolled the lot to keep it safe from would-be troublemakers.

Another place I always visit is the men’s dormitory area. The old Smith Quad has been demolished and with it went many memories; in its place stands the new nursing school. Capitol Quad brings back memories as well. I can still see “buck-naked” guys sliding down hallways that had been covered with water and washing powder. Those “Tide Slides” caused messes, but they offered a little fun and relief to guys who usually studied hard. I shake my head when I recall the idiot who stood on the roof of one five-floor dorm and refused to come down until he could seen the funnel cloud of an approaching tornado. Most of all, I close my eyes and relive the evening that Amy stopped by my head resident apartment on her way to a wedding. I’d never seen her so dressed up, and she simply took my breath.

My favorite place to visit on a trip to TTU is the back parking lot at the student center. There, a parking spot is important to my life. Facing the lot from the student center, the space is the first one right of center in the row at the top of a set of steps. I parked there one day and saw Amy jogging with her P.E. class. We’d had our first date the weekend before, and I remember how embarrassed she was that I’d seen her without make-up and in gym clothes. That same spot became more special a few weeks later when Amy and I stood at the back of my VW Beetle and declared our love for each other. I have a vivid picture of the moment, even though it happened 35 years ago.

This coming weekend, we make another trip to Cookeville. On Saturday morning, I’ll again make the trip to get Mary Alice. Before I pick her up, however, I’ll re-visit those places on the campus of Tennessee Tech University. Who’d have ever thought that such wonderful memories could be sparked by a parking space?