Tuesday, June 05, 2012


Saturday night I sat between my sophomore-year roommate and a journalist.

"How about this salad?" I remarked to the journalist on my left.

"Well, I'm spoiled because we grow fresh arugula at our farm in Tuscany and we spend half the year in Italy." 

OK, well; alrighty then: I turned to my roommate on my right and inquired what she'd been up to in between serving in the Cabinet and teaching economics at the University. 

"I've just finished a seven-year degree in music," she answered, "practicing piano four hours every day." Roommate's son-in law earns his living as a jazz musician in New York, and he stopped by our table. Turns out journalist retired from jazz piano. "Oh you play with Harry?" she asked across me. "I studied with Harry!"

Um, hi, I just started taking piano lessons... I played a duet with my grandson in the piano recital up at the church.... and brought cookies...
It was anticipating such a scene that made me feel that I really really didn't want to go to my fiftieth college reunion.

No, it was a bad idea. For one thing, I'd gotten fat. For another, I dreaded "alumnae news syndrome," that you get when you read the Class Report from classmates such as the above. Plus, I'd had a bad experience after a previous Reunion, when a famous writer classmate quoted my own class report in her magazine column. What I had written for classmates got publized widely, and that's an anecdote in and of itself.

There were other reasons too that I wasn't planning to leave my comfort zone and fly on an airplane and sleep in a dorm room with a communal bathroom down the hall. After submitting my Record Book report and mailing my teeny check, I could check Reunion off my list.

But the letters kept coming and the Facebook posts from those hard-working class leaders. The on-line Record book (to which I contributed verrry thoughtfully) got me fascinated. After a while I thought I'd feel worse not going than going, which for me is a positive.

The Reunion itself turned out stupendous, glorious, etc.  I walked into my dorm room and immediately felt like I wanted to sit down and study at that desk there.  Coming out of Step Singing Friday night I said, "I actually do feel like giving a whole lot of money!"
Classmates looked beautiful, actually glamourous; and I had not overestimated their accomplishments. But the funny thing was, they were wonderful, awesome women, and I loved them.

Plus, those hard-working planners had provided for our minds and spirits. At dinner after Friday p.m. Step-singing, we enjoyed a well-crafted sampling from class artists (who of course are exhibiting all over the place). Next morning, I learned of an internship program our class supports, while sitting next to a classmate I had known since youth group at Ladue Chapel, even before we lived in the same corridor at Wellesley. We heard classmates talk about immigration policy and the history of drug development. In a discussion group, a neuro-scientist explained research into the role of a "transporter molecule" that causes our brains to age. This kind of learning is that unidentified something I've been missing for a while; and I realized it's not a sin to crave intellectual stimulation.

After an archives talk and tea, a chapel service celebrated our deceased classmates. Since Denny and I got married in that chapel, the gathering had extra force for me.

And then, in between the jazz piano and the Italian arugula, my roommate and I found our old friendship re-kindled. She wanted to hear things from my soul, about my work with addicts and in the church, that I had never expressed aloud to quite anyone but Denny. The intimacy and love was there again, stronger than ever. My heart filled up seeing her next to her husband of 50 years, surrounded by three of her grown children, and holding her granddaughter (Wellesley '35) in her arms.

I was also able to rejoice in the dazzling brilliant genius classmates as well. Rather than feeling alumnae news syndrome, I came away with overflowing gratitude for the privilege of Wellesley and the incredible 50th Reunion. For other classmates, the weekend might have meant one good time among many; for me it was a touching and healing, a blessing, and ultimately a gift.

And you know me: I thank God for them all, even the famous writer who had the good manners not to show.


Blogger SKreader said...

That's lovely, mom.

12:45 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

Thanks, honey!

11:18 AM  
Blogger Pat said...

I am truly sorry to learn the famous writer's real reason for not attending. She had leukemia, and I just learned that she died.

9:14 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home