Friday, May 29, 2009
So, this weekend is my 20th college reunion. The complicating factor is that last year was also my 20th college reunion. I started college in the fall of 1984, a member of the class of 1988. But I took a year off between my sophomore and junior years and so graduated with the class of 1989. There's still no question in my mind that taking a year off was one of the best college decisions I made. But it leaves me betwixt and between when it comes to reunions. I know more people in the class of 1988--they were the ones I was a lost freshman with. But my closest friends, the people I'm still in regular contact with, are from 1989--it's just everyone else I don't know.
College reunions are a strange thing. I'm someone who didn't go to the 5th or the 10th reunion of either class. But in 2002, I became an employee of the Amherst College Office of Alumni and Parent Programs (a job about which I had many mixed feelings), and a big part of my job was to help organize reunions. That first year, I worked on the 40th reunion of the class of 1963, the 60th reunion of the class of 1943, the 65th reunion of the class of 1938 (a true pleasure), the very, very tiny 70th reunion of the class of 1933 (also a pleasure) and, due to someone's maternity leave, the 20th reunion of the class of 1983. The 20th reunion was my least favorite. Immediately upon meeting the reunion chairs, I was asked where their VCR was. "What VCR?" I wanted to know. The VCR they had asked my colleague on maternity leave for four or five months earlier and hadn't mentioned since. That VCR. We found them a VCR, eventually, but when they told me that they'd rented a popcorn machine for the kids, but the rental place was closed on Sunday and they were all leaving, I nearly had a fit. These were people with adult lives and professional careers--in what other circumstances would they rent a large piece of equipment and make no plans for returning it? I informed them that I drove a Honda Civic and could be no help. (Eventually, they found a local classmate to bring it back, as they should have done in the first place.) Even six years later, I have no fondness for the class of 1983.
The older fellows, on the other hand, were gallant and charming and a pleasure to work with. (Okay, there was one fellow, a distinguished historian, from the class of 1943 who had a fit when a younger class--who had been invited by his classmates--appeared in droves and made a run on the liquor supplies. He shook a finger at me and told me to make them go away. Um, okay. I had to escape to my office for a little time out after that. Thankfully, he was an exception.) Even though the college they had attended was vastly different from the one I had attended, it didn't really matter. Working with those older classes was like assisting a bevy of benevolent grandfathers, and it was hard not to be happy at their joy in rekindling decades-old friendships.
For three years, 2003, 2004, 2005, reunion weekend was the longest, busiest, most exhausting of the year. Most of the volunteers I worked with were lovely and a few were terrors. When I left that job, I was delighted that, if I ever decided to come to reunion again, it would be on my own terms, and I wouldn't have to be nice to anyone I didn't want to be nice to, a very liberating thought.
Last year, at the 20th reunion of the class of 1988, I made a brief Friday night appearance while I was still in Amherst, saw a few people it was nice to see and one person it was wonderful to see, and then I made my escape. I'm pondering doing the same thing this year, the equivalent of a drive-by. Emily says I have to come to see her, if no one else. Then again, someone I saw on the list is a woman who, at the end of senior year, dated someone I had liked junior year. By the time they dated, I had no stake in it, but somehow we cultivated a pretty serious dislike for each other. She thought I was a hairy-legged, off-campus feminist, and I thought she was a bitch. The fairy tale reunion ending would be that we end up best friends. My guess for what will actually happen is that we will studiously ignore each other. But that's the thing about reunions, the wild card that might make them worth attending--you just never know. If any of that happens, I'll report back. Otherwise, I look forward to next week, when Amherst becomes again primarily the town where I work rather than the town where I went to college 20 years ago.