Our Sewanee reunion is now past, and I realize that I haven’t written anything since returning. Part of that has to do with the fact that since quitting his job, HK and I have been consumed with future plans, including covering our health insurance needs and figuring out what to do with our houses. Ok, that’s a great excuse. In all honesty, it’s bullshit.
Anyway, the real reason I haven’t written anything is because my head has been swimming with thoughts and emotions after having come home and reflected on the events of our 4 days together on the mountain after so so many years. I’ve tried to describe it to my husband (who did not attend–most spouses didn’t), but his eyes just glaze over and his mind drifts to far away places. Having not been to boarding school, isolated on top of a foggy mountain, I imagine that it would be impossible for him to grasp the experience.
Tracy and I drove into the campground on a cold, foggy Thursday morning. It was a typical Sewanee day, as Sewanee means “fog” in some Indian language. After checking in the campground staff and the adorable 21 year-old Drew (who quickly became our adopted son), we were greeted by the ever-smiling, long and lanky Stretch. OMG! I hadn’t seen the boy since 1977, but there he was in all his glory, even cuter than I remembered. Instant warmth, and more so as we proceeded to tap the keg (gotta be an ale-cheap beer makes me lose weight says Stretch) and got a bonfire going.
It wasn’t long before others began dribbling in, and by that first night, we had a dozen old friends doing what we did so many years ago, drinking beer around a fire.
The next day brought a dozen more, and the mountain was full of giddy school kids in aging bodies. While I didn’t know a few of the women who had left Sewanee before I got there my junior year, I was amused to hear their introduction. “Hey, I’m Beth, I got booted in ’75”, “Well, I got booted the next semester…” and so on. To identify so fully with peers that for one reason or another were there, and then they weren’t, felt very natural and un- forced. “We’re like family” was something I heard several times that weekend.
One day was spent hiking our old haunts around the mountains that had been home. Albeit our asses were wider and knees stiffer, we all had a blast climbing up and around Proctor’s Hall and other landmarks that made these mountains home. I had to laugh as we passed the bottles of wine as groups of students would come hiking by. I imagined them thinking, “just who are these fossils and why are they here?”
In a (rare) moment of introspection, I paused to take a look around the campsite. Here was a group of people who had continued to flourish and grow for 30 or more years after leaving our shared histories at Sewanee. One of the friends that I made at the reunion was a Bill, a guy from my class that I never, for one reason or another, really got to know. He reminded me of something that was said by a faculty advisor during commencement…
” I recall that during our commencement ceremony, Max Cornelius instructed us to look at the people sitting next to us and realize that we would never be sitting with these people in just this way ever again. He was telling us to be in the moment.” Bill’s reaction at the time was the same as mine- “fuck it- i’m outta here!”
But then, sitting around that fire, I relished the fact that we had each refused to let life get in the way and had made the collective effort to be together once again.
For days (weeks, even) following our reunion, many attendees expressed how badly they realized they missed each other. A few people started a post to start a community living situation together. Maybe it was the afterglow of love and togetherness talking. Maybe not. I do know that when we were together, many of us felt that in some way, we had come “home”. I did. And I plan to revisit my family more often.