that long-gone gold

Those really were my golden years — those four college years between 1957 and 1961. And so I was willing to help plan our 50th class reunion. I even sewed a big 50th reunion banner and put up a class reunion blog. That was the fun part.

But it turned out that my closest “girl” friends couldn’t be there for the part that was supposed to be the most fun. When I checked in with one of them a month before the event, I found out that she had moved into an “assisted living” facility (in the same nursing home building where her husband, also a good friend of mine, was confined to a wheel chair with a deadly combination of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases). She told me that her daughter had taken away her car and license, and so there was no way she could attend the reunion.

(If she is there, will I not be far behind, I wonder. We are the same age, same height, same coloring; we shared wardrobes for four years and together descended on Fort Lauderdale, Florida for one glorious Spring Break. Life is not fair.)

A week before the event, my other close friend called to tell me that she had just had a mammogram and was told to go in for a biopsy. The biopsy turned out to be early Stage 1 breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy yesterday and will proceed with the recommended treatment. Life is not fair.

So, did I have fun at my 50th college reunion?

Well, I have to admit that there was a certain amount of pleasant nostalgia that propelled me through my planning committee tasks. Some things went right. Some things went wrong. What went wrong had to do with logistics; what went right had to do with having a chance to connect with some of the 50-years-older people whom I knew and liked back in those golden years.

As a female college freshman back in 1957, sharing a room in a small “group house,” I lived under rules that today’s female college freshmen would never tolerate: we had curfew hours, dress codes, no males allowed beyond the front room and not even there after 10 pm. Two of the girls who shared that group house with me came to the reunion. Seeing them again was part of the fun.

At the reunion dinner, a table covered with memorabilia from those golden years included a copy of the annual literary magazine from 1959. No, it didn’t include any writing by me. In 1959 I was too busy dancing in college musicals and writing a gossipy column for the college newspaper. And drinking beer. And dating. And joining a sorority. And cutting classes to TGIF. Many of my reunited classmates tell me that they remember me as always smiling and happy. Heh. Why not. Daddy was paying the bills and I was off absorbing the joys of life, the universe, and everything.

That’s right. I was no scholar. I managed to balance out my Cs and Ds with a greater number of As and somehow graduated as the B+ person I continue to be. But I digress.

From your absinthe tinted green dreams and
soulless wanderings across deserts of the mind, came truth–
ice-essence truth……

On page 32 of the literary magazine, I find a poem that begins with the above lines — lines inscribed on the flyleaf of a paperback book of Rimbaud’s poems by the talented young man who wrote the poem and gave me the book. I learned that he passed away a year and a half ago. I wonder if he had still had that tousled red hair, that red beard, that passionate, dark, beat-poet intensity. He almost seduced me. But I wasn’t ready yet, back in 1959.

The literary journal also had some pieces by his best friend, who also was my friend, and whose family became friends with my family after we both married and had kids. He is still writing. We lost touch more than a decade ago, although I had learned about his wife’s tragic illness and death sometime along the way.

Bob decided to come to the reunion at the last minute, and we sat together at dinner, recalling those mellow days and nights when we hung out together in front of his future wife’s sorority house — he and his dark-haired Irish lovely, and me with my brooding red-headed boy. And he asks me if I am happy. And what I can answer is that “I am not unhappy.” We plan to keep in touch. I went and ordered his recent book of short stories.

I supposed the ego-stroking highlight of my class reunion (which was part of the university’s Homecoming Weekend) was having a good-looking gray-haired guy (who was a college year behind me) come up to me to tell me that he still remembers the first time he saw me. I was sitting at the long table at the bar we all went to on Friday afternoons. He said that he remembered what I was wearing — a brown skirt and sweater. And I was smiling. And he thought I was gorgeous.

I guess it was a good reunion after all.