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.

Last week, I took a road trip down to Apalachicola, Florida, to visit one of my Sewanee peeps, Tracy. Since we have reunited twice in the last year, we were mostly past all the what have you been doing for the last 30+ years and all that, and were easily able to just pick up from the more recent encounters. Very comfortable, very easy.

I actually lived in Florida for roughly 6 years after Sewanee Academy, and 3 of those years were spent in Tallahassee, not too far from Apalach. My friends and I used to go over to St. George’s Island quite a lot and camp on the beach, but I never made the extra 20-minute drive over to Apalachicola. GO figure. I was pleasantly surprised to find a charming little fishing village with a kick-back vibe where most everybody knows everybody. Not at all the little tourist trap I  envisioned–not by a longshot!

This is precisely why this stretch of coastline on Florida’s panhandle is referred to as “The Forgotten Coast”. While most of Florida’s northern coastline was being over-developed and commercialized, this sleepy stretch of sand located between Carrabelle and Mexico Beach remained unsullied, keeping it’s “old Florida” appeal and laid-back casualness, very much unlike the billboard strewn, neon-lighted, Spring-Break nirvana  of Panama City Beach and beyond.

Apalach (as locals call it) is free of fast-food restaurants, opting for casual, seafood-oriented cafe’s housed inside the 100-year old wood and brick structures that line the few central streets. The food was fresh and relatively inexpensive– I was thrilled to find oysters on the halfshell for around $7.00/dozen. In fact, 90% of all Florida’s oysters, and 10% of the country’s oysters, come from Apalachicola bay. (Needless to say, in 3 days I consumed around 5 dozen.)

There is a CVS pharmacy and a Piggly-Wiggly, but that’s it for “chain” stores. The shops lining the streets are charming, funky, unusual and friendly. I helped out their economy a bit, too!

Tracy took me to Indian Pass- a beautiful beach not far away, and we went to the unpretentious hole in the wall Indian Pass Raw Bar and gorged on smoked ribs, sausage and of course, oysters–the coldest, freshest, juiciest oysters I’ve eaten in a lang while.  It was a relief to know that the BP Oil spill last spring hadn’t affected the harvest, I know the fishermen in these parts were extremely concerned.

I met Tracy’s Mother, Jane, and Tracy’s host of friends in town, everybody was so warm and genuine.  It was delightful to explore the many layers of my new/old friend’s life.

Tracy, thanks for sharing!

Bondage can be a GOOD thing!

Sewanee Gals @ Shenanigans

I’m on cloud 9.  I have just returned from an absolutely amazing weekend in the rolling hills of Tennessee.  And yes, it was because of facebook, once again.

As you may remember, I reunited w/ my old Sewanee Academy friend “Martina” a year ago.  It was my first facebook-generated face-to-face, and I was nervous as a whore in church! But it worked out beautifully.  We vowed to do it again, soon.

So about a month ago, I turned on my computer and I had a new friend request! Ohhhhhh!! I LOVE getting “friended”, (unless it’s from someone I don’t know or didn’t like,) so I clicked accept, and there she was!  Beth, an old dorm-mate from back in my Sewanee days.  Not even a week later, same thing.  Accept friend request. Tracy!!!! OMG WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN????”   Well, you know the drill…back and forth the 4 of us, yadda yadda yadda, giddy as shit with tons of questions.

Having gone to the funeral of an old Sewanee classmate 2 years ago (who just happened to be Martina’s ex-husband), I made a promise to myself that I would make an effort to revisit those people that had made an impact (good, not bad) on my past. I have lost too many friends unexpectedly without having had the chance to tell them how I felt, that I loved them. That was before I was on facebook, tho, and my efforts to make contact were mostly in vain.  Enter facebook and, well, you know that story.

So, last weekend, with very little (more…)

so,  my old Harlan peeps just left, after a 5-day visit. unfortunately, my camera wasn’t working, so i am at the mercy of them to send photos that i can post. i am posting one from last year’s reunion. (the girl on the far right was not here.)

i can tell you, however, that it was a most awesome time of friendship and bonding.  the funny thing is that we really didn’t do anything.  we mostly hung out on one of the porches and talked and laughed, listened to music and drank lots of wine.   i’ve mentioned before that there is comfort in old friends, especially the ones that you can just sit with, having no real agenda.

and we didn’t feel bored, either. we went out on the boat and sat for a while just listening to the great blue herons that are nesting right now, and we walked through the atlanta botanical gardens (spectacular new renovation/additions) and took in the beauty that surrounded us.

we cooked together and laughed a lot, especially when we stopped by the grocery store and saw some guy carrying out a case of corona beer and as he crossed the street, shrimp started falling out of his shorts! they were everywhere, and he grabbed his crotch with his one free hand and tried to contain the remainder of his “five finger discount” seafood, to little avail! we were cracking up and singing songs about it for the evening.

maybe it was because we were at my house, or maybe because we saw each other as recently as november 2009, but the feeling was one of  familiarity and the mood was relaxed.  just doin’ nothin’.

all that nothingness was a whole lot of something. Thanks, girls!

It’s Spring! (Even though it feels like summertime here in Atlanta, Ga, at 90 degrees). When I look back over past entries on my site from last spring, I realize that this is a time for rebirth, renewal, and reunions!

So, in a matter of days, I have not one, but two reunions with old fiends- er, I mean friends, to attend!

Saturday, my old buds that I knew back in Harlan, Ky., will descend upon my home here in Atlanta for FIVE days! YIKERS!!!! They are the friends, if you followed my blog last fall, that I met in Sedona for a rendezvous.    So, we had such a good time together on that trip that we agreed to convene here this spring.  (Drunk-talk, you know—who ever thought it would actually come to fruition????)

So Debbie called me a couple of months ago and told me she got her ticket.  Okay…Next up was Bertha.  Alright. It’s a plan, man.

So…about a month ago, I found two old buds from a completely other life (Sewanee Academy–boarding school, after I pulled the shit that Bertha and Debbie know me for.)  Well, as happens when you first reconnect w/ old friends on facebook, we were all squealy and shit (as squealy as you can get on the computer, anyway). Oooohhhh…we HAVE to get together!!! So we contacted another old partner in crime, Martina, who I reconnected w/ last year, and made the plan. Turns out, the only time the 4 of us could get together was the day after Debbie and Bertha leave.

At first, I considered this a slight problem. But having gone over it in my mind, I actually see this as a really cool thing. For one thing, the two groups and I had very different relationships in the past. Bertha and I knew each other since second grade.  We were mutually respectful of one another growing up through the years, but I don’t think that we ever actually told each other that until our Sedona reunion. Debbie? She was actually one of my first partners in crime, (in the 7th and 8th grades) spending the night and sneaking out, meeting boys, smoking cigarettes, until her parents made her go to the county school to get away from “bad influences”.  I didn’t see her after that until that same Sedona trip last year, where we realized that we were still those two little trouble-makers from way back.

Enter my Sewanee peeps. We’ve got Martina, Tracy and Beth. We’re meeting at Martina’s sister’s lakehouse in Tennessee for 3 days. None of us (except me and Martina)  have  seen or talked to each other since 1977.  And even though we only knew each other for a year and a half, we shred a dorm, a bathroom, the mess hall, and daily life together over that time. Since there were only about 30 girls in that dorm, we got to be serious confidants in a short span of time. I anticipate our time together next week to be a completely different dynamic than the Harlan girls, yet I have no idea what to expect.

I do know that i am  feeling the love,  the joy and the excitement of reconnecting with strong women that played a big part of my past, and hoping that they’ll be playing a big part in my future!

So tune in next week for an update. I’ll be posting from my cell over at the State Mental Hospital. (Hmmmm…anybody interested in a time-share at the Betty Ford Clinic??)

Greetings, peeps! I’m just back from that 5 day trip to Sedona, Arizona, where I reunited with 2 old friends and one new friend.  I’m sure you’ve been on pins and needles waiting to find out how THAT went, right? OK, then, I’ll dish the details, leaving out a couple of the more “special, private” times that will stay saftely sealed in the “Sedona Vault”.

At the airport in Phoenix, I was the last to arrive, and immediately knew that this trip was going to be a good one.  I admit, I was initially shaking like the girl who is about to meet a blind date for the first time, but aside from sporting a few more wrinkles and a little more weight, we really hadn’t changed that much. I would’ve recognized Bertha’s beautiful smile anywhere, and Debbie? The minute she opened her  mouth to holler to me, tons of old memories came rushing back.  More buried memories were uncovered when, after arriving at the condo we were to share, Deb pulled out her old scrapbook and yearbooks. OMG, we hooted until the wee hours!

Quite a bit of time over those 5 days together was spent in deep discussion of who we had been “back when” and where we’d gone since. And I’m not talking about geographical moves here, I’m talking deep shit. From insecure teenagers with a lot to prove to the world to 50-somethings who are maybe still trying to prove ourselves, to ourselves, we had each taken vastly different journeys to ge to where we are today.

During the day, we would head off in seperate directions to do whatever we wanted to do, with no expectations or prescribed itineraries.  As Bertha so eloquently put it, “we have options!” Some of us hiked, some shopped, some hung out and relaxed surrounded by the magical red rock formations that make Sedona such a magical place . Come afternoon, we all came back together over a glass (or several glasses) of wine, sharing tales of our adventures of the day.

The comfort that comes with being old friends (and Sharon, the new friend who we dubbed our “Lil’ Sistah”) brings with it saftey and an acceptance that I find very hard to describe. From foot rubs to late nite pajama parties, singing at the tops of our lungs (and video taping it!) to crying on shoulders then laughing so hard we nearly peed on ourselves, it all came naturally. It is very liberating not to have to censor yourself for fear of rejection. (Shit, if we were gonna reject each other, I figure it would’ve happened 30-some odd years ago, right?)

How many people actually get the chance to reconnect with old friends in such a way that lifts your spirits and warms your heart?  I think a LOT of people have that chance.  We just, for one reason or another, don’t take that chance. We allow life to get in the way. And what a shame. Because for me at least, I have a newly gained sense of acceptance and a warm feeling of being loved not just for who I am, but for who I was, way back when I considered myself pretty unlovable.

Thanks, girls, for giving me that gift. I love you, and I look forward to paying it forward.

Taking Chances

SBW

Chapel in the Rocks