As a kid, my dad always let me have a bowl of ice cream before bed. I'd watch television and shiver happily as I scooped bites of Neapolitan, rotating between the chocolate, strawberry and vanilla in order. When I got old enough, I filled my own bowl; my parents always made fun of how much ice cream I could fit in it.
Now, on the night before I start the first year of my PhD, I'm having another bowl of ice cream. There was always something especially calming about the ice cream ritual, and even after 21 years of first days, those nerves remain. But in some way I feel like I can reach back to the six-year-old girl who waited in bed for her dad to bring her a bowl of ice cream, safe and snug and watching Taxi until she fell asleep.