One day I woke up and realized I was taking Boulder for granted. After 30 years there, 12 working at CU, it was probably bound to happen.
That new ho-hum attitude wasn’t the main reason I moved to Philadelphia in 2004 — that was to be near my son and his wife and to be a hands-on “Nana” to my granddaughters. But it sure played a role. My heart didn’t skip a beat anymore when I hit the top of Davidson Mesa and saw Boulder spread out before me. I stopped attending CU football home games — except Nebraska or Oklahoma — if I had too many chores or the weather was especially gorgeous. And I swore to myself I’d hike more at Chautauqua or Shanahan Ridge. But I didn’t.
I knew on an intellectual level how blessed I was to have studied at a top-notch university in such a stunning setting. And to live in Boulder after graduation was icing on the cake. But on an emotional level I felt it was time to be near family, to taste the unfamiliar and experience a completely different environment and way of life.
And different it was and is.
After having the university, the Flatirons, the Farmers Market, Juanita’s, the Peak-to-Peak Highway, and McGuckin’s at my fingertips, I suddenly became a displaced alum, logging on to the Alumni Association or Boulder Camera website for updates, news, anything Boulder. I missed my Buffs, Norlin Quad, good organic produce and Liquor Mart and pined for the Colorado blue sky that stretched wide open like a clock’s sweep from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. As luscious as all the trees are in Philadelphia and as captivating the skyline, I felt hemmed in by green and buildings, almost struggling to catch my breath.
When I settled into my East Coast life, the absolute novelty, fast-paced tempo and precious time with my family kept my adrenalin pumping. As a new city dweller, I found my Toyota sat idle while I experienced a sense of pride in learning to use mass transit or my feet to get places. But I’ll never forget when I had to give up my CU Buff plates for the oh-so-boring Pennsylvania ones. I cried and cried — and stashed them under the front seat.
New acquaintances often asked, “You moved here from Colorado? Why?”
When they asked for my thoughts about living in two such different places, I’d shake my head and remark, “I swear the two, East and West, are on different planets.”
I’ve discovered Easterners just aren’t as open or overtly friendly as Westerners. But underneath their sometimes gruff exteriors, they will often go out of their way to help you in ways you didn’t even realize you needed. And I’m thankful to be a part of Philadelphia’s very diverse population; Boulder can’t help it, but it just isn’t the real world.
I love that Amtrak takes me to New York City in only an hour and 20 minutes and to Washington, D.C., in two. I always felt restricted as far as Colorado weekend escapes, despite the mountains to the west. I like sitting on the stoop of my home to chat with neighbors. The closeness of Philadelphia’s row homes makes visiting natural, and the summer humidity feels refreshing for at least a few minutes before I escape to my air-conditioned home.
But I’m still shocked and saddened by how much trash there is clogged up against fences and walls. And a friend remarked, “Nancy, you’re not in Colorado anymore” after I was robbed — twice. Now I pay my home alarm bill every month along with other necessities like the phone and water.
And it bugs me that if you’re first in line at a red light turning green everyone behind you immediately lays on their horn. On the other hand, I’m intrigued by the number of drivers who, if there’s no parking available, just stop on the street (really), switch on their hazards and dash into Pete’s for their pizza or CVS for their prescription. I don’t do that yet, but my son reports my driving has become more aggressive.
When I grow tired of the rain and the often dismal winter weather, I find myself longing for a wild Colorado storm. Here the rain is just, well, here. But the payoff hits in the spring. It’s so lush and glorious that I sometimes shiver with delight.
Much to my dismay, I haven’t seen one CU sweatshirt or Buff decal in the five years I’ve been here. I pounce on the Coloradan the minute it arrives, try to attend the CU admissions “road shows” and enjoy hearing from a handful of Buffs each fall looking for a watch party site — yes, in Philly! I wear my gold CU baseball cap, look forward to the chancellor’s e-newsletter and enjoy chatting with the students who call for a donation.
The other day someone asked where I was from, and I automatically replied, “Colorado.”
“No, no,” he said. “What part of Philly are you from?” Ah, I guess it’s time to call Philadelphia my home. But my heart . . .
Nancy Rasmussen (Engl’67) works as associate director of alumni relations at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. The former CU-Boulder Alumni Association staffer recently turned on a Philadelphia Eagles football game — on purpose. She thinks this is a sure sign of assimilation.
Photo by Casey A. Cass