Monday, June 02, 2003

Uncommon Women

I spent the weekend celebrating my fifteenth college reunion. I once more reveled in an intellectual atmosphere, never once hesitating to use the big word or to show how much I know. I also listened to classmates talk of staying home with their children in tones ranging from sheepishness to haughty pride. I marveled at the beauty of the campus that had been home for four years. I enjoyed myself.

No matter where I wanted to go on campus, I felt surprised that I still knew just how to get there, and which would be the prettiest way to walk. I knew just how the library stacks would smell, and the name of an obscure building. How can I get lost trying to get somewhere in metro Richmond that I have been before, yet I can still navigate a place I have visited only five times in fifteen years?

As I have experienced during quiet times at camp, just about everywhere I went at MHC I could replay an old scene or remember a snippet of conversation. LM waxing poetic about the smells of spring on Skinner Green. Ween and I carrying a box of tissues and cups of tea up the garden steps en route to J’s class. SS stopping me by the library to tell me so earnestly about her J-Term internship that I rushed off to sign up for one – at Colonial Williamsburg – myself. Who would I be if I had not fallen to S’s peer pressure and thus launched my first career in museums?

I didn’t visit only old haunts; I went on a guided tour of the new buildings on campus , too. Led by Kate ’04, the tour took us to the music building; past poor Blanchard, under renovation again; briefly to the art museum which some of the older alumnae hadn’t seen before; to MHC’s new pride, Kendade Hall; and finally to the Library. Kate gave us a good picture of how students use and live on the campus today. Her take on post-modern Kendade – which may have been the college-approved spiel – belittled Carr’s 1950ish International Style charm and suggested that the college would not hesitate to change other modern exteriors or indeed tear down buildings in the interest of achieving the same slightly spooky uniformity of the University of Richmond. Engulfing Carr labs, Kendade is a spectacular po-mo college building. It features soaring spaces, chunky details reflecting other bits of campus, and flooring worked into solar system, DNA, and neuron designs. It’s swell.

Modern wonders about elsewhere, too. All of the rooms, even in 1897’s Pearsons Hall where I lived this weekend, have all of the computer hook ups a modern student needs. Pratt features a sci-fi-ish room which, at the touch of a button, adjusts its acoustics so that you can hear yourself speak, or sing, or play as if you were in stadium, a small concert hall, or a small room – about six or eight choices in all. I took a one hour class on creating a web site in a computer lab chock full of matt black Dell computers and with the nicest set up I’ve seen for projecting the instructor’s screen so we could all click along. If I were a current student, the college would provide space for my own page; as it is, you’ll have to wait until I figure out a cheap way to do it in my current world.

Natural “wonders” caught my eye when we arrived on Thursday. It was a clearing, pleasant spring day in New England, so of course azalea, tulips, dogwood, and honeysuckle were all in bloom, together. Outrageous and fun. Friday’s weather continued to be warmer and sunnier than we’d had in Capital City in weeks, and the rain even held off until after the Alumnae Parade. Though shorter and lacking the current graduating class, the parade always stirs indescribable feelings of pride and reassurance. I feel proud to be connected to generations of educated, talented, witty (we carry signs that often convey, amongst other things, our senses of humor) women; I feel both reassured that I can make it and challenged to go out and do my very best. During the Alumane Association meeting, Class of '88 President S. did a fabulous job presenting the two-minute version of our class history.

And all too soon, it was time for S & D to take me back to the airport in Hartford, then as now remarkably similar to Capital City Airport. Indeed, Hartford’s airport seems to have been renovated in the last couple of years, too, and both now sport bold geometric designs in the flooring. The floors and those classic Eames airport chairs foster a feeling that one has just spent hours staying in the same place. But before heading out for more of the same travel experience on Sunday, the Long Islanders and I strolled Northampton, in the rain. We gleefully perused Simpsons toys and other good stuff in Faces (number one on the list at that site; I’d disagree with the card assessment: Mongrel might be a smidge better). Other stores we remembered from those glory days of the 80s still in operation numbered less than six, I’d say: Sweeties, Paul & Elizabeth’s, and Thornes Market. Like Carytown, NoHo lost its useful things: the Woolworths and the hardware store stand out in my mind. My first string of Christmas lights came from that Woolworths; my most recently-purchased ones from Garden Ridge, out by Byrd Airport – and thus we have completed the return trip.

No comments: