The P-Rade, Saturday afternoon of reunions, 1996
Tomorrow, I will go to my 20th college reunion. Of course I feel the expected shock that it’s been 20 years, and time feels especially slippery right now: weren’t we just there, as students, in a fog of sunshine and beer and magnolia petals and senior theses and orange? So much orange. Yes we were just there, but it’s also been 20 years.
I’ve written a lot about the friends I met at Princeton. They are the largest group of native speakers in my life, ground zero, the knot of truest friends I know. I have called them the women who hold my stories, described the way we are sailing together, reflected on when the future felt like a bright ribbon unfurling in front of us, noted that friendship is made of attention. I tried to capture those weeks of senior spring in words, a moment of my life that was as high-pitched and glorious as any I can recall since.
This is what I wrote, many years so, and it’s all still true today. Things are different, yes: our children are older, we are older, and we have more wrinkles and more disappointment and, I think, more joy. One thing will never change: you will always be the friends who were with me when I was really becoming who I am now. There aren’t many friends who know the name of the first boy I kissed in college and the title of my thesis and when my grandmother died and the job I really wanted that I didn’t get and what I was wearing (not much) in the Nude Olympics. As I wrote this post, a group text went around, and one friend on it threatened that “I have nude photos of most of you, just remember that.” Touche.
There’s a reason college is called the most formative time of our life: that may not be true for everyone, but it certainly was for me. The friends I knew in college shaped who I am today, and those marks are forever. I can’t wait to see you all.
We all knew each other when we were becoming who we are now. Knew each other before we were mothers and wives and partners at McKinsey. Before we had real responsibilities, a smattering of wrinkles, and the occasional designer purse. We’ve shared a lot in the 14 years since we graduated: marriages, divorces, the perfect macaroni and cheese recipe, births, deaths, book recommendations, surprises both joyful and heartbreaking. We’ve visited each others’ brand new babies in the hospital and we have stood next to each other when we buried parents. We were and are each others’ bridesmaids and the godmothers of each other’s children.
We hold each others’ stories, and that is a unique and privileged position.
I’m still struck dumb, honestly, by the fact that women as fantastic as these would hold me dear. These are strong and intelligent and compassionate and beautiful and gentle and deeply human women, every single one of them. I respect the choices they’ve made, whether they are similar to mine or different, and I know I can trust them to be gentle with my decisions. With these women, I am as comfortable as I am anywhere else in the world. In their light, I am brave, not shy.
I think, again, of the powerful Adrienne Rich (of whow these women remind me, because I wrote my college thesis on her) and of the line “There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors.” We sit down together, we weep, we laugh, and we are all warriors. All in our own way. But we are safe together.
One of our favorite things to do is to sit around and look at old pictures. Pathetic, maybe. Entertaining, absolutely. For one of our annual weekends, I scanned hundreds of pictures and brought a slideshow. I’m sure there will be hundreds of pictures from this weekend to add to the pile. I can’t wait.