Tuesday, April 26, 2016

50+ Years Later: A Reunion with Old College Friends

Lovely Dataw Island, Cathy's adopted home where she lived with her husband Tom and is an Island historian, preservationist and community leader, so Sarah and I had the best tours of the Island and surrounding Islands around Beaufort. We had an expert tour of the Sams PlantationTabby Ruins; boarded the Santa Elena tall ship that anchored in Port Royal, a reminder of the 16th-century Spanish history of the Islands; walked on the beach under a clear blue sky; visited the pretty town of Beaufort and the Point, a neighborhood of Antebellum mansions and grand Victorians; enjoyed a fantastic "Lowcountry Chamber Music Concert" with Cathy's friend Ann at the Art Center; shared wonderful lunches and dinners with the best conversations imaginable; savored a meal of fresh shrimp right off the boat at Dobson's, which looked like Forrest Gump's shrimp boat! What a special time, a walk down memory lane. 
What's it like seeing your college roommates and closest friends after 54 years? I was nervous about it, but it turns out I didn't need to be at all. It was wonderful, kind of like watching a home movie in fast forward, traveling over time from the innocence and curiosity of young girls at the beginning of life's journeys, to the vim and vigor of old ladies with lots of experiences under our belts and the humor to match.  We reminisced, shared memories, remembered some things differently or not at all, got updated and recharged, laughed a lot, and created new memories to warm our days.

After graduation from Wheaton College in Norton, Mass, where we spent four years together learning, experimenting, and exploring, Cathy and Sarah went off to New York City and I to Madison, Wisconsin. They kept in touch with each other and several mutual friends then and through the years, while I disappeared off the planet.  God knows why I seemed to never look back over a period of my life that was so important, why I neglected to stay in touch with friends who meant so much to me.  I confess to a terrible failing. I'm guilty of inconsiderate and selfish, unkind behavior. Thoughtless youth, yes, but really so incomprehensible. I got into my graduate student days to such an extent I left the past behind.  How could I? Still, Cathy and Sarah were kind and forgiving, and we were happy we finally came together after all these years. I'm reminded of a blessing for old age: "May the light of your soul give you wisdom to see this beautiful time of harvesting..."

And harvesting is what we did. From the seeds of our individual choices and our shared experiences we harvested the gems of our years.  We reminisced under towering and ancient Live Oaks dripping with Spanish Moss, felt the winds of time sweeping across Dataw Island and over the replica of the old cargo ship, Santa Elena, and enjoyed the culture and special beauty of the South Carolina lowcountry around Beaufort. We were all history majors at Wheaton, remembered our wonderful professors and the high caliber of our education, and we understood the complex history and heritage of the place we now shared. Cathy is active in preserving Dataw Island's history and a leader in her adopted home, so we had an expert and knowledgeable guide. We were on the same page politically, too, which made for some great and hilarious conversations.

It was a magical mystery tour on many levels adapted to the aging spirits of three old college friends. We were "red hat" ladies in purple, like in Jenny Joseph's famous poem, making up for "the sobriety of our youth," letting the inner sparks fly freely and with gay abandon.  There's an energy and freedom that comes with age, not to mention some experience and wisdom about life, and we three shared in them with great pleasure.  I tend to go light on "the wisdom" factor, and a bit more heavy on the "life's a daring adventure" side, and Sarah and Cathy do, too. When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ukraine I used to say, "It's amazing where life takes you, if you take life as it comes."  I still think so.  Life took Sarah, Cathy and I full circle to Dataw Island, SC, and we just let the winds of time fly over and around us, our red hats sailing off into beautiful sunsets and beyond an orange full moon into brilliantly starry nights.

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