Back in 1978 when Grease was the word (was the word was the word), Jimmy Carter was our president, regular gas cost 63 cents a gallon, and the price of a first class stamp was 13 cents, approximately 1,200 mostly 18-year-olds converged on a leafy campus in Connecticut to begin what the school song calls “the shortest, gladdest years of life.”
According to the bursar’s bill posted on our class Facebook page, one semester’s tuition back then was $2,575.00, room was $557.50, and board was $617.50. Now that is the kind of nostalgia I can truly appreciate. Suffice it to say that one semester alone for each of our girls runs almost exactly 10 times that.
Speaking of Facebook, John Travolta — hot off both his Grease and Saturday Night Fever success — was the stand-in for those who did not send in their own photo for the hard copy freshman facebook, the only kind that existed at the time, since Mark Zuckerberg was not even a twinkle. (He was born in 1984.)
I remember how stressed out I was choosing exactly the right outfit, brushing my hair exactly the right way, and smiling exactly the right smile for the picture I would send in for that book. My friends all told me how the boys — excuse me — the college men would scour its pages to find girls they wanted to ask out. For the record, while it may have happened with others, it never happened with me. I didn’t care; I just wanted to make a good first impression.
But my, how goofy I looked — though I thought I was the epitome of cool — and my, how dated we all were with our hairstyles that now scream 1970s! The girls with long, flowing locks with that distinctive middle part, the boys with poufy hair looking ready to hit the discos. You never think you are dated until you look back and realize that you actually qualify as vintage.
Thinking back on the naive yet hopeful 18-year-old I used to be, I wish I could sit her down for a heart-to-heart and tell her everything I know now. (Buy Microsoft in 1986! Buy Apple as soon as your husband buys his first iPod!) But seriously, all that good stuff about life, love, success, disappointment, and what is truly important.
In a few short weeks, those now 50-somethings will gather once again for — ouch — the 30th reunion of the Class of 1982. I will not be there, but only for the best and most understandable of reasons. On May 24th, when my reunion kicks-off, 30 years to the day after we wore our caps and gowns and received our diplomas in a New England downpour, our firstborn will be graduating from college herself (Johns Hopkins), and two days later, at the high point of reunion activities, our god-daughter will be graduating from West Point.
So this past week, four of the five members of our freshman suite met in New York for a reunion of our own, and looked beyond our 50-something selves to recapture the spirit and camaraderie of the idealistic teenagers we were when we were thrown together as roommates and became friends for life.
We met for brunch at a cafe on the Upper West Side, Hope, Margaret, Melissa with her husband and three children visiting from Maine, and I, and then strolled up to Hope’s apartment. We laughed so hard I had stitches in my side, and then in a fit of silliness, we crowded into Hope’s shower to get a group picture — a variation on the ’50s fad of “How Many People Can You Fit Into a Phone Booth.” (Another item that dates us -most of our kids probably don’t know what a phone booth is).
As for our long-lost fifth member, motivated by our mini-reunion, I’ve tracked down Jean on LinkedIn, who is now living in my old stomping grounds in California. I plan to catch up at length with her very soon and reconnect her with the rest of the gang.
Our post-reunion communication sums it all up.
From Hope: “We MUST make the effort to come together more often, as I think it does wonders for all of us — certainly exercises the laugh muscles! What a small miracle it was in the summer of 1978 when the gods of college rooming assignments looked down and said “Let them be friends — forever!”
From Melissa: “This long deep connection we manage to maintain just gets more precious over time — it reinforces the C-22 glue and reconnects us to our younger but not so different selves. Part of our family conversation on the way home was my thanks to my kids for being such good company and traveling companions, and for being so patient during conversations with old friends. Jessie said that even though she didn’t get much dirt on me, she really loves listening, she finds my friends so funny and interesting. I think it’s cool for them to see these how these threads of life weave together.”
From Margaret: “Being assigned to C-22 was one of the luckiest days of my life. I am grateful for lasting friendships with all of you. As Euna says, life comes with rough patches (involving health, men, kids, etc.) but through it all, we are sustained by the love of smart, caring, funny women friends. While I don’t see you nearly often enough (and we can do better!), it is wonderful to know that we can pick up just where we left off, as if no time has passed.
Thanks, guys, I couldn’t have said it any better.