Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thirty Years and Counting

This posting has nothing to do with scrapbooking, but it has everything to do with memories and the past. So, please, bear with me this one time.

I returned from my college reunion a few days ago, excited, energized, renewed and full of affection for friends new and old. My hometown friends and family do not understand what it is like to be part of a sisterhood born of living and learning with women for four years. It is a bond that lasts despite separation, both of time and place. It is a bond that is renewed every five years at a place called Mount Holyoke.

Mount Holyoke College is the oldest continuing institution for the higher education of women in America. I did not care about that when I applied back in 1977. All I saw was the gorgeous campus nestled in the Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts. All I saw was the enthusiastic admissions counselor who interviewed me. All I saw was the cheerful and happy student who gave me my tour of the campus, a girl comfortable in her own skin. I was hooked and I never looked back. I applied early admission. I was admitted right after Thanksgiving.

For four amazing years, I enjoyed stimulating classes in History and English and Music. I endured and survived Biology. It is not those classes that were the turning point in my life. It was the girls I entered with in the fall of 1978 and the women I graduated with in the spring of 1982 that made the difference.

We ate breakfast in our Lanz nightgowns in the dining rooms in our dorms. We watched Bucky Dent hit the home run for the Yankees that put them into the playoffs - some of us with joy and others, Red Sox fans, with anguish. We watched as the Iranian hostages were released. We gave gifts to the freshmen as Secret Santas and made air-popped popcorn in the hallway of the fifth floor during sophomore year. We agonized over the dorm and room lottery each spring, not wanting to split up our groups of friends. We selected and changed our majors and then changed them again. We sang in the Glee Club (after trying out three times) and performed in NYC every December. We rode the Five-College bus to Amherst and went to Judie's for popovers. We climbed Mount Holyoke on Mountain Day, brown bag lunches in hand. We posted grad school and job rejection letters on the walls of our dorms. Some of us pulled all-nighters to finish our papers and theses.

We laughed and cried and rejoiced together.

And we graduated outside in a magnificent amphitheater in a magnificent rain storm, holding umbrellas that made for colorful photos and masked our tears. Then we parted.

Sometimes our paths crossed as did mine when I roomed with a sophomore pal while I was in law school and she worked for a publishing company. Another classmate was a law school colleague. My sophomore and junior roommate was my maid of honor when I got married. We exchanged letters, talked on the phone and, much later, e-mailed and reconnected through Facebook.

And we went to a reunion every five years. I attended all of them but our twenty-fifth. I regret that. I almost did not attend our thirtieth, but because of a Facebook page that generated enthusiasm and excitement, I decided to make the trek from New Jersey to S. Hadley. It was hot. It was very hot. And it mattered not one bit.

We rekindled friendships and made new ones. We laughed about college exploits and despaired over lost classmates. We shared our very different lives and discussed what would come next for us as our children moved on, as we became caregivers for elderly parents, as we approached retirement, considered career changes or were forced into them by the economy.

For me, though, I was reminded not only of the fun and carefree days of my youth but of the gift that Mount Holyoke gave me. It is undefinable and unexplainable, but, as Oprah would say, this I know is true. Those four years and those girls, now women, were the turning point. They made me who I am. I would probably change a great many of the choices I have made over the last 35 years or so, but the spontaneous decision I made as my father drove up Route 116 in S. Hadley in the fall of 1977 would never be one of them.