Sewanee Academy


Proctor's Hall

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.

Green's View

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.

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Cravens cafeteria at Sewanee Academy

As you know, I have been having a very public love affair with facebook for the past 2 ½ years.  Through my virtual lover, I have reconnected with many, many old aquaintances.  Social Media has become an entirely new way to socialize, and I find myself running to my computer upon entering my house after any absences of more than, say, 30 minutes. And, facebook  never lets me down. There is always a new post from someone, leading to comments from others that I know or have become familiar with through this whole crazy web of “friends” and “friends of friends”.

Having had a fist full of face to face reunions with old buddies, and reminiscing about “the good old days”, I started a page for facebook users that at one time or another attended my old high school alma mater, Sewanee Academy.  Being a boarding school, we lost touch, in most cases, right after graduation.

 

The Cross

After hooking up online w/ one old bud, we started online chatting about getting us all together in the spring. Since he’s a teacher, we decided it would be during his spring break, which just happens to be 1), April  Fools Day,  and 2) My birthday. Coincidence? Who knows. More like kismet, methinks.

I regard the rapidly approaching date with a head full of mixed emotions. About 20 of us will be coming together to rekindle old ties and make some new ones.  I suspect there will be some healing taking place, as well.

From the hundreds of posts that have taken off on the FB page, someone posted the question “What’s your worst memory from Sewanee?”

The gate to the bullring opened up. Most of the posts were humorous: “pissing on theean’s head from the second floor window”,  some sad: “leaving”, “breaking up with my BF”, but a few held on to some past resentments. “Getting busted by xxx” and “getting turned in by xxx and being thrown out of school”.

So one girl from my dorm, Phyllis, described being bullied by “mean girls.” I paused for thought. Had I been one of those girls? I don’t think so, but back in those days, we were all so wrapped up in our own personal drama that maybe we had been cruel to others. I remembered feeling judged by some and the ensuing insecurities that plagued me as I carried on living among this diverse group of strangers.

We were here for a variety of reasons, some from broken homes with broken parents, some were “broken” themselves, others had found too much trouble back at home (or maybe were just too much trouble…) and still others came here for the sake of a better education. (Imagine that!)

Regardless of why we were there, the fact remains that we were, so we had to make it work as best we could.  It still amazes me that a mixture of so many personalities could live 24/7 in such tight confinement with so few conflicts. Sure, there were bound to be those that one didn’t like for whatever reason, that is a fact of life, but…

I sent Phyllis a private email. Had I been one of the mean girls? Because if I had, I don’t remember.  But if I was, I am truly sorry.

She promptly “faced” me back. Not me, not at all. I was relieved, but realized that somewhere in even questioning myself,  I probably had some amends to make.  Somewhere. To somebody.

Then, as I see so many posts from so many former classmates facing the same self-doubts or even regrets from our shared history, I realize that we have all grown up, now, and moved on from what damage may have been done those 30-some-odd years ago. I think the only “amends” needed to be made are to ourselves.

So to all my classmates and teachers that I will have the pleasure of re-visiting this weekend, ( and the ones who can’t make it, as well,) let’s pull the bandages off any old sores and allow the fresh mountain air to collectively heal our wounds.  Each of you had an impact on me in one way or another, and for that, I love you.