Stu­dents cel­e­brate Easter at Casa Blanca, an off-campus home. Sofia Krusmark | Collegian

Not a table was full in the Knorr Family Memorial Dining Hall on Easter morning.

Most were empty. Few voices scat­tered throughout the hollow hall. The bright yellow chickadee, coconut covered cup­cakes were the liveliest thing to be seen. (Well done, Bon Appetit.)

Most Sundays at this time, lines snake through the over­crowded cafe, cre­ating a maze impos­sible to escape. People rummage through apples, bananas, and berry scones, still wearing nice clothes to signal that yes, they went to church too. It’s nearly impos­sible to walk by every table without at lease one invi­tation to join. 

This holy day was different.

“Maybe most stu­dents went home.” False. Nearly 500 people attended the Easter Vigil at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church the night before to cel­e­brate 24 stu­dents being con­firmed in the Roman Catholic Church. I saw more than 30 stu­dents at the College Baptist Sunrise Service at 6:45 a.m. Even more attended the 10:45 a.m. service. The stu­dents weren’t gone.

Some stayed to see their friends get con­firmed. Many said their churches at home were closed. Easter pairs poorly with online ser­vices, they said. Others couldn’t imagine an Easter apart from Hillsdale, even if home was just a couple hours away. 

“When we went home for COVID last year, I thought to myself, ‘Hope­fully we will be back by Easter,’” my friend Dominic Bulger told me.

And after Sunday, I can’t imagine an Easter without my Hillsdale com­munity. Those empty chairs at all those empty tables in the dining hall?  I spend a lot of time with my friends at those tables — I’ll always be fond of the over­crowded dining hall with mediocre food.

But those tables are filled with con­ver­sa­tions that are meant to be unfin­ished, intended to move beyond the hour-long dinner. Friend­ships out­lasted those long tables, and yet those tables hear old friends who exclaim to one another, as Lewis said, “You too?!”

The tables weren’t empty because stu­dents weren’t cel­e­brating. They were empty because Easter cel­e­bra­tions were too grand for this typical spot. The cafe­teria doors broke open on Easter morning. 

One off-campus home, Bjornheim, slaugh­tered a lamb at 6 a.m. His name was George, and he needed to be ready for 2 p.m. lunch. They picked him up from a local Amish farm. They were going for the one-year-old unblem­ished male lamb, but as it turns out, George was a female sheep going on two years old. She ran away the day before Easter, through the back­yards on Union St. and into the football tailgate by the sports complex.

 George didn’t get too far — which meant the Sunday feast was still on. The band of brothers held fast to their 6 a.m. slaughter. I held fast to showing up at 2 p.m. for the feast. Little by little, more people arrived, most with a dish in hand. Every­thing from potatoes au gratin to Ritz Crispy Thins covered the rusted folding tables. Strangers came to the table. Anyone was invited. “Lamb is expensive, venmo Morgan-mor­rison,” a brown card­board sign read, the only requirement for a seat at the feast. 

One student hosted a brunch for friends with her family, who flew out from Texas for the weekend. It’s an annual tra­dition for her parents to rent the same large lake house 15 minutes from Hillsdale and ship a 20-pound ham into town. Then they invite all of her friends for an afternoon of feasting, puz­zling, and kayaking. Twenty friends scat­tered across that property this year. Freshman who couldn’t go home showed up. Some guests were alumni.

I asked my housemate what she was doing for Easter. “I’m going to my god­parents’,” she said, smiling. He was our pro­fessor, and the man who would now walk alongside her in the Catholic faith. 

Another friend showed me a necklace his pro­fessor gifted him upon his arrival to the home on Easter Sunday. “They couldn’t wait to give it to me,” he said.

Then there was the feast at my house. We wanted to eat outside, but we also wanted to play. We lacked the resources. At the alert of a text, a par­ticular man unlocked the Hayden Park club­house doors. “Take any­thing here that you want.” I drove away grinning, my car loaded with 24 folding chairs, brown wooden tables, bocci ball, cornhole, and bright-colored ladder ball. On Easter Sunday, I glanced out my window to see four friends throwing sandbags. It was 7 p.m.  

We didn’t have these cel­e­bra­tions because Hillsdale was our only option. We chose to stay in Hillsdale so we could cel­e­brate together. Herein lies Hillsdale’s beauty: it demands nothing other than the indi­vidual come and sit at the feast. Hillsdale is a place full of open tables.