Friday, June 16, 2006

Levavi Oculus

I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from?
~~ Psalm 121

The Readership has been asking for the Reunion stories, and the Writer apologizes for creating an inflated sense of demand. Perhaps you have moved on by now, and I have missed the market opportunity, which certainly wouldn't be the first time .

I was afraid the expectation had become that these posts are to be funny, and "bloggy," and that's my own fault. Certainly most of what is in my head is not funny, and not fit for company, and the effort it takes to sort that warp and woof is usually more than this mill girl can take at the end of a day.

The Germans will have a word for the wistful rush of nostalgia and heartbreak that comes from returning to the place where your adult self was born. Old Girls call it Reunion.

Perhaps these observations will not resonate with anyone who did not live this experience. But perhaps they remind you of such a time in your life and the girl you used to be. I invite you to go find that girl wherever you left her and have a cocktail.

When I was young, and lived at the base of this mountain, I thought it was the most beautiful place on earth. Later, after I had left it, and had to settle for spiritually lifting my eyes to it, I often wondered if I had only magnified it in my memory. I hadn't seen much of the world at that time -- I had only barely left Virginia, and Virginians see little point in doing so -- I certainly had not seen yet Franconia Notch, Ranier, or the Tetons , which would one day cause me to fall down in wonder. What was to be expected from a 3000 ft high old woman like Tinker?

Here I testify that rounding the curve on Rt. 11, where one passes Kroger on the right, and the double hump of that old mountain suddenly appears against the sky, I would have run into its arms -- slow-motion, through a field of wildflowers, to a chorus of violins.

I met my younger self on the front porch and we regarded each other -- she of the Frye boots and Ray-Bans, slouched in a rocker idly smoking. Me in my favorite pin-stripe suit, standing over her against the railing with the quad behind me. Both of us with our legs stretched out in front of us, crossed at the ankles. I am afraid I have disappointed that girl, though she had no expectations of me whatsoever, except that I might have a suit like that one day and know how to move in it. I wear it for her, though she pretends it doesn't interest her.

She never thought past the end of a term, this girl who believed Dukakis could be president and that typing skills could be a fallback position. I want to scold her over it, tell her to take her sunglasses off when I'm talking to her and pay attention. Tell her that it's rough out there and the market will fail, and she won't make any money for about 15 more years, and don't wait so long to start a retirement fund.

But she is serene. A cardinal calls out in the silence between us, then she says I should not set up my stores on earth. "This isn't how it is, you know," I say. She answers, "I know. This is a whole lot better. Is that so wrong?"

Women's college alumnae will not apologize for our goofy little traditions. One of ours is a parade of classes around the front quad. Hats are worn; slogans are chanted. It is a spiral that begins with the earliest classes filing past the later classes, who fall into step behind those before and pass those who came after.

It is corny as all hell. But as we process, we anticipate our future selves. We are charmed by the new graduates -- 2 years out, 5 years out -- who network and boast and show their baby pictures. The Class of 86 are exhausted and jaded, and we long for the retirement of the class of 56. We stand in awe of the lone member of 36.

What she could tell us if she only thought we would listen.


  1. the image of you talking to your younger self was some of the most moving writing I've read. Thank you, Caroline, for finally sharing the reunion story.

  2. A recent grad here with tears in my eyes after reading this post. I missed my first reunion and my heart is still broken from it...thank you for sharing


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