Sometimes it takes a reunion to remember who you are

June 24, 2002

We couldn't remember the adjective. We weren't sure what word used to fill in the blank:

"The something-est girls, I ever knew, are in the class of '72 ..."

My memory of our class song, to the tune of "Sippin' Cider Through a Straw," is fuzzy.

I recall boisterous young voices, cafeteria-table pounding and a spirit of competition among the classes, but I don't remember exactly why or what or on which occasions we sang it.

The years will do that.

June 7-9 was reunion weekend at Rosemont College, the small Catholic women's college in a "Main Line" suburban village of Philadelphia from which I graduated, with honors, thank you very much, in 1972.


We were gathered in the dining hall and had just marveled at a dinner of filet mignon and salmon - not typical fare when we were students some 30 - yes, 30 - years ago. The cash bar and free-flowing wine also were out of place.

Suzy, still organized after all these years, had called last winter. The answering machine picked up before my son did, so I heard her voice - recognizing it immediately despite a 10-year gap - when I hit the play button. "Just tell her it's a friend from college," she said.

There's no "just" about it.

I didn't make the last reunion five years ago - my daughter's high school graduation was the same weekend.

But I wanted to be there this year - not so much to reminisce, although we shared a lot of fun memories.

I wanted to check in - see how people with whom I had spent four pretty important years of growing up time are doing. I wanted to see how they've coped with the good times, the hard times - the times.

I wanted to see how we - and I - measured up.

A friend told me that when she and her husband attended his 40th college reunion, they wondered who all the "old" people were.

I was worried about having the same experience.

Although nobody looks quite the same, I am happy to report that everyone was recognizable.

But nobody is quite the same.

The 30-year interval also has been a growing time - and not just in the waistline region.

Debbie lost a son and a husband.

The landlord who owned the building where Cathy had a successful travel business for 15 years decided not to renew her lease. She decided to regroup, rethink, spend time with her husband and high-school age son. She's loving it.

Geri has become a floral designer, has grown kids and a 9 year old. Yikes!

Little Mary Jo - still tiny after all these years - homeschooled her six (!) children. "Not high school," she's quick to say.

Judy was informally voted to have achieved the best changed hairdo - from a long, wild, gorgeous red mane to a stylish cut that matches her sharp corporate job.

Maureen and Tom started a new life in suburban Washington, D.C., after more than 20 years in Connecticut.

Spouses have endured heart attacks and cancer treatment.

Mary Anne has taken care of her mother who was diagnosed with early Alzheimer's. She's planning to go to graduate school.

Cathy volunteered at the World Trade Center food tent after she lost her beloved brother on Sept. 11.

We cried together, laughed together, and as women sometimes do - danced together.

We sang a little of that class song. I fear that the missing word was "prettiest."

Pretty was pretty important to college girls in 1972 - probably still is today. And no, we're not such fully evolved feminists that we weren't - and still aren't - worried about how we looked.

I had e-mailed Cathy before the weekend to tell her I couldn't wait to see her.

"I'm having my hair colored. I'm trying to get my nails done. I'm fat, but I have a pretty face," she responded.

Her crazy, offbeat wit is in tact.

And so are a lot of other good, solid qualities of character we somehow managed to see in each other 30 years ago.

The weekend was validating. Reassuring.

We decided to use "coolest" to fill in the song's blank.

No, we are not particularly hip, and that's OK.

But we still are smart. We are kind. We care about our families, our friends and our world.

We are strong. We still are growing.

We really are something.

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