Sunday, March 9, 2008

Go, Tarheels! (My Sacred Life, Sunday)

When one thinks of loyalty, consideration is given to lots of factors. As loyalty is usually a feeling one has which grows with time, with exposure to that which one is loyal to, with common experience shared with others who hold the same loyalty, one of the prime factors is how long one has been loyal.

This is the logo of my beloved University of North Carolina Tarheels. Because I was born in the campus hospital, I can claim loyalty dating back to before I was born. My dad was in dental school in those days, and my mom was the secretary to the dean of the medical school (a tale for another day--she knew and worked with James Taylor's father, a professor in the medical school at the time).

As with most young families, money was tight in those days. My parents lived in married-student housing, an area of university-owned little houses all in a row which have long-since vanished. In fact, I believe the old houses were sacrificed when the Dean Smith Center (more-popularly called the Dean Dome) was built in the mid-1980's.

My parents were the first in the little neighborhood to have a child, that being me. Once I was old enough to walk, I would go from door to door begging cookies. Being the only kid around to whom one could give cookies, I got plenty. Apparently, I was known for my post-cookie sales pitch: "Jus' one mo!" I recall a photo in my parent's collection of my little two-year-old beaming face, holding up one finger.

Remember, never ask for two cookies. Ask for one. Then one more. Repeat. Walk to next back door.

When my dad finished dental school, it was time to move, and move we did...often. He had entered the Air Force, so he practiced dentistry at places hither and yon for his career before retiring some years ago to a less-hectic life in Arizona.

Still, despite travels all over the world as a kid and later as a member of the Air Force myself, my place of origin is first in my heart.

The University of North Carolina (now, they insist on adding "Chapel Hill" to the name to distinguish it from the other schools in the UNC system, but you won't ever see me doing that) was the first state university in the United States. It was chartered in 1789 and construction on the first building began in 1793. By the spring of 1795, there were two professors and 41 students making up the university. By the time the University of Georgia--the second-oldest state university--began classes in 1801, Carolina had already produced three graduating classes.

Carolina was one of few schools to remain open through the Civil War, although the university was closed for five years after the war because of the deterioration of buildings and missing equipment which came about during the federal occupation of the campus. By the mid-1870's, school was again in session and the recovery was well underway.

By the time my family arrived on the scene, the dental school within UNC was all of three years old, and when I was born, the hospital was almost brand new, having opened its doors less than two years before my arrival. The three years spent in Chapel Hill made me a Tarheel forever.

Julia and I visited the campus in 1998 when I flew to North Carolina to see her before we moved her and all of her belongings to Colorado a few weeks later. Even though much had changed, I still recognized the main dental school building, one of the few buildings in the medical-center part of the campus to survive from the era when my family was there. We had lunch that day at the Rathskeller. In talking to my dad about that visit, he pointed out that, while in school, he played honky-tonk piano at the Rat (yes, that's the affectionate nickname locals gave the place many years ago) to help keep the family afloat.

Sadly, the Rat is no more. After 59 years in business, the deterioration of the basement-level space coupled with a lack of attention from the out-of-state owners of the building and some lingering tax-payment problems resulted in the auctioning of all the restaurant's physical assets last month.

Even without the Rat, though, Carolina basketball is, again, a major attraction as March Madness approaches. Julia and I watched last night as the Tarheels handed their long-time archrivals, the Duke Blue Devils, a loss on their home court for the third year running. It's our little bit of home, watching ACC basketball a few times a season, and the UNC-Duke games are the highlight. For those fans who love the basketball played in the ACC but are not Carolina or Duke rooters, the mantra is ABC (Anybody but Carolina) or even ABCD (Anybody but Carolina or Duke) when deciding who to cheer to the conference title.

Carolina is ranked number one in the nation in the college polls at present, meaning I will have a strong rooting interest as the tournament starts in ten days or so. Julia's family is not unlike many in North Carolina, with one of her sisters and her family strong Duke supporters and alumni, and her other sister and family huge Carolina boosters. In fact, the summer cottage the sisters have shared for many years has pennants for both Duke and Carolina displayed in a place of honor.

For today's Sacred Life Sunday, I honor the place of my birth, the home of my original and longest-lived loyalty, the University of North Carolina.


Julie said...

It sounds like you have a great history with your team.
Happy Sunday! (a day late!)

Sphincter said...

I like this "One more" idea. Why didn't I think of that? My dad was an MP stationed at Camp Lejeune for a time, and my brother was born there--so there are some pro- Tarheel feelings in my family, too.