Reunion 2002

Friday, May 24

We arrived as busy schedules allowed -- 124 of us - some toting toddlers and strollers and others children's wedding photos - with expectations and trepidations for this gathering of the class of 1977 for our 25th (gasp!) reunion.

Climbing the well-worn stairs in Mary Woolley to register in the New York Room delivered the reminder that our feet merely contributed to what some had begun and others had continued, and it felt like just moments had passed since the last time we were in that place.

I'm here to report that we are lookin' good.

But, we don't all follow directions, apparently, and there were more than a few dimly lit dorm rooms in Prospect as we had not noted the very handy "packing checklist" on the first page of the Reunion 2002 booklet. HmmmÉ "reading lamp", item #3. And remembering to tote a towel to the bathroom every time was a re-learning of a habit long ago dismissed! By Sunday, most of us were back in the swing of dorm life and, no doubt, happy to leave some aspects of it behind.

The "official" welcome reception for our class was held in the lobby of the art museum. Reconnecting and newly acquainting, some drifted "uptown" for dinner, but most stayed in place enjoying the food and beverages already there, moving back to Prospect for a long evening of noisy chat accompanied by a "silent" auction. Although showers threatened, a full moon and stars prevailed, and the party spread to the patio on Lower Lake where a lot of conversations included the repeated question "Was this patio here when we were?"

Saturday, May 25

Some early risers did flock together for a bird watching tour. Most of us were awakened by the birds anyway, with windows left open on a summery night (having also missed item #4, "fan"). So, the non-bird-watching early risers merely hovered by the dining room door wishing the coffee would brew more quickly.

Clad in our white whatevers, we gathered for breakfast and our class meeting and costumed ourselves by creatively draping, tying and enfolding ourselves in gorgeous green pareos, achieving a unique "look" which received many unique glances from bystanders on the parade route.

Class President Nancy Herman Jarrett ran the meeting which included expressing our thanks to Sue Pardo Hardy who has been our capable and willing Treasurer for all 25 years - and continues still. The new slate of officers was accepted as proposed and we welcome Liz Lewis Gershon as our newly-elected President.

We held a moment of silence filled with memories of five of our classmates: Carol Anders, Meg Ayers, Rebecca Brackett, Toy Cook, and Elaine Sturges. It's not a happy thought expecting that list will be longer when we gather next.

Still working on the "creative draping" of our parade costumes, we made our way across campus, no doubt sounding more like giggling girls than uncommon women - but how seriously should one take oneself when dressed in white and green whatevers and about to parade with signs in front of bemused spectators?

But as silly as one feels, trying without great success to keep "four across" en route, the tears prick and the lump in one's throat forms, with an overwhelming feeling of pride, connection, empathy - with those who have gone before (and march among us still) and, carrying the laurel chain, the newest alumnae with their multicolored hair and tattoos -- also in white whatevers - and although it would be easy to blame this on hormones this reunion, it happens every time. HmmmÉ maybe it's uncommon hormones.

And so, with this wearing of the white, we honor them all, and are honored ourselves. There aren't many traditions in our culture that honor women at all ages and stages; perhaps that is why this is so important. And many of us wonder how this could be preserved if men joined the parade at Mount Holyoke.

Finally we were gently herded into the amphitheatre, grateful that the sun was shining though the shaded platform remains chilly and we're glad there are afghans placed on the laps of those who needed them. We were also grateful that the words to the Alma Mater were printed for us to follow - though with a few reunions behind us, we seemed to remember more of it than we did as seniors or shortly thereafter when the "alternate" version was the easier to recall.

The 130th Annual Meeting of the Alumnae Association of Mount Holyoke College was carried out with great fanfare and recognition of many individual and collective accomplishments. Nancy Herman Jarrett presented an exceptional rendition of our class history - evoking laughter, tears, and hearty applause. The Class of 1977 was presented with The Griffin Award "for the largest percent of increase to all funds for any purpose between the fiscal year prior to reunion and the reunion year." The flower-filled trophy cup was displayed in Prospect for all of us to enjoy as we celebrated another accomplishment that required all of us.

Once dismissed from the meeting, we hurried to wait in lines for a barbecue lunch on Skinner Green, eager to eat before our appointment for the reunion class photo on the steps of Skinner. Five reunions from now, we'll be posing in the living room of Willits-Hallowell, if it lasts as long as we do!

Suddenly we had our afternoon before us without obligatory agenda. Some attended department open houses, admiring state-of-the-art laboratories and libraries and athletic facilities, certainly glad they're available for today's students, but perhaps a little envious that they weren't there when we could have enjoyed them. Others ventured to a center of town greatly changed since the days of the CI and Chanticleer, but not without its own charms. And many just continued their visits with friendsÉwherever.

By evening, we were ready to party together once more and since our reunion committee had a remarkable gift for hospitality, Prospect living room was a very welcoming place. And the conversations continuedÉand they were different from conversations at earlier reunions. We no longer seem to feel a need to impress one another with achievements or an illusion of all being well in our lives. There was a sense of being more real with one another - of willingness to be vulnerable - and it was refreshing. Whether we have had, have now, or hope to have careers - for many of us, we are making new choices in designing lives that satisfy more deeply. Several have survived breast cancer, and other illnesses to which we can hardly believe we are subject. Some are widowed, several divorced. Happiness is measured differently. Life is celebrated because we are still here to celebrate it. There was a need to talk about 9/11 and life since then. It will remain a defining moment for us, and maybe it contributed greatly to what felt like gratitude just to be there together and share memories, challenges, and dreams.

Our class dinner merely changed the location of the catching up about our growing up, and the only difficulty was a sound system that just didn't function. However, microphone or not, we couldn't miss the hilarity of the quartet singing "Streaking on the Green," which clearly detailed the exploits of more than a few '77 freshmen.

And how many of you ever received a written informal card from Amherst guys in response to an invitation? (Postage was a dime.)

"Dear Misses Stephanie Jaffe and Okhee Pyun, Thank you very much for your kind invitation for the night of April 19. My roommates: Steve Craig, Mark Greene, George MacGovern and I, take great pleasure in accepting, and look forward to seeing you Saturday next. Sincerely, Rick Leland"

Who got to marry this guy? I bet he wrote the wedding gift thank-you notes, too! Obviously some of us flirted in better circles than others.

Then we teamed up for MHC and Class-of-1977-era trivia and had a lot of laughs and a few debates.

Adrienne Wilder Reid created a CD full of "our" songs, which was a big hit and a fun memento of the weekend.

Following dinner we joined the crowd gathering outside on "our" patio for the traditional canoe sing on Lower Lake, which put us in the perfect spot for the fireworks display which was accompanied by many asking the question, "Did we have fireworks at graduation?"

Lights went out earlier than at the 20th reunion - we're not getting old, it's because we were up so early with those darned birds.

Sunday, May 26

A rain-promising morning greeted the graduating class of 2002 but they set up for the 165th commencement exercises in the amphitheater anyway, and the soaking held off just until the diplomas had been presented. Those of us who wanted to watch in greater comfort headed for one of the several closed-circuit locations such as the Blanchard Campus Center (another enviable addition since "our" days on campus).

The commencement address, delivered by Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, was all a commencement address should be - thoughtful, challenging, inspiring. It was well worth hearing. However, in addition to hers, four honorary doctor degrees were conferred and the remarks of every single recipient were exceptional. One memorable quote, by Reverend Peter Gomes, was "If you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't, then do."

It had been a weekend of "continuing education" in every sense - one of reflection, recognition and celebration.

It was possible for us to arrive and enjoy because Merry Galassi Hampton and Sue Beery Duncan and many others had put heart, soul and a whole lot of hard work into planning it. Elves did not come in the night to tidy and re-stock the hospitality suite in the living room - but Merry was busy at it all the time. Thank you all for making it happen.

We seemed to disperse quickly on Sunday, a few staying for brunch at Willits-Hallowell, but our "group" time was officially over and we left the dorm in drizzle. Exchanges of addresses (mostly for email) and promises to call, to write, to keep in touch, to get together filled parting conversations with quick hugs and smiles. And we could say this all very sincerely, with wishful hearts, because although we said it five or ten or twenty-five years ago, we still really truly mean to call, write, keep in touch, and get together. And we know that even if we fail to honor these best of intentions, in five years, health allowing, we will gather again and don our white whatevers and honor ourselves, and each other and all that is Mount Holyoke College.

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