birthdays college friends reunions

Arc of Some Skivers

In the fall of 1985, my mom dropped me off near the little town in Minnesota where I would be starting college.

Fortunately, my aunt and uncle lived at the spot where she stopped the car, so it wasn’t like I was left trying to hitch a ride to campus or anything. Mom had a meeting back in Montana the week my college experience commenced; thus, she dumped me on my aunt and uncle a little early with instructions to “ditch the girl at the dorm next to the smelly ponds sometime next week. Oh, and here are her sheets, size Extra Long.”

They heeded her words, and a week later, Sheets and I were deposited at an imposing cinderblock structure on an otherwise bucolic campus. After the goodbyes, I felt as many freshmen do: a little excited; a little bewildered; a whole lot lonely. I tried to act confident and cool as I blasted my cassettes of Howard Jones (“OOOOH, what’s love got to do, got to do with it?”) and bought new highlighters, accoutrements which would, I hoped, help me decipher my HISTORY OF EARLY MODERN EUROPE textbook. Who was this Balzac, I wondered, and would covering his life story with bright yellow marker make it more meaningful?

Essentially, I was bewildered and adrift.

Gradually, though, that business of hanging in there and faking it did pay off. I met some people, and we flirted with each other. Pretty much, they all lived in my dorm. On some levels, they affirmed my feelings of worry and inferiority, for they were Big Smart, well-traveled, and accomplished. In comparison, I felt Just Smart Enough, provincial, and a touch hayseed.

More importantly, however, they affirmed my worthiness. They thought I was funny; they invited me to sit under their tapestries and listen to The Replacements; they wanted to go in with me on a late-night Domino’s double cheese pizza. Together we wrote (in highlighter) own new history. They transformed me.

Now, twenty-two years later, these pals from college still rock me like a hurricane. After graduation, everyone cast about for careers, spouses, homes. While we threw our voices into the greater world, this college crowd also continued its common thrum. I was with some of them the first time they got drunk. Later, I was with them when they got married. We’ve carried each other through divorces and the deaths of parents and the joys of babies being born. Damn it if these people haven’t turned out to be found-siblings that only cost our families about $30,000 per year in tuition to discover.

Along the way, there have been times when our closeness has waxed. Then it’s waned. For a few years, I thought some of the relationships were gone, that they’d shriveled beyond repair or care.

Now that I’m forty, though, I sit at the vantage point of a queer maturity: I can see the larger arcs of friendship. It came as a big life lesson to realize that even when a relationship has seemed dead for some time, it can still be revived. What I sometimes thought was belly up had simply gone dormant. With the slightest puff of air, we always resuscitate completely.

Hence, when many of us gathered a couple of months ago to celebrate the birthday of one of our luminaries, it was a true celebration–and not just because there were little hors d’oevres of butternut squash soup served in shot glasses and shrimp tacos and scallop empanadas and free wine and Red Velvet cupcakes and itty spanikopitas.

It was a celebration of longitudinal camaraderie.

And buttercream frosting.

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houses moving past summers reunions soccer

Eternal Youth


By the summer of 2004, we had sold one of our two houses (no double mortgages), churned out all the kids we intended to (no notion of breeding a full soccer team), and come to acceptance of our family’s quirks (plenty of dysfunction, but no crazy Aunt Millicent tied to a chair in the attic).

Obviously, if everything was going so swimmingly, it was time to create a whole new kind of hassle.

So we moved 100 yards.

Take a moment now, if you would, to look around your house. See that heavy sleeper sofa? See that fragile antique vanity? See those bookshelves weighted with encyclopaedias? See those closets bursting with unused fabric, tchotckes, and bedding?

Now picture picking up each and every one of those things, walking the length of a soccer field (by the way, guess where I’m sitting as I type this?), and then setting it down again.

The kids’ playhouse moved better with wheels under it…

Yea, we humped our masses of possessions all of 300 feet…in July, of course. This assured that every piece of furniture would be coated with sweat during the short trip, thus affording our friends and moving helpers a much-needed challenge. Many of them would be missing their daily workouts, what with devoting hours to our cause; thus, we felt, somehow, that we were aiding their fitness efforts by making sure the move was a hot and strenuous one.

Okay, the backstory. A year and a half earlier, we had met some neighbors—a lovely young couple who would have assisted each other easily to goal after goal on the soccer field, had they, you know, played soccer–and scored an invitation to dinner at their house. That evening, when we showed up for dinner and walked through the front door, I exclaimed, with my usual reserve, “I love, luv, luff your house! If you ever decide to move, you’ll let us have it, right?” Artificial laughter sprinkled all around, and that was the end of it.

…until the phone rang a year and a half later. It was Lady Neighbor, and she queried, “So. When you said you’d love to have our house, were you serious?”

Good question. Of course I hadn’t been, but when presented with the option of buying their house, since they had decided to seek out greener hillsides in the Pacific Northwest, I realized I could learn to be serious about getting the four of us out of our 960 square feet and into something more than twice the size.

Discussion ensued. Deliberations deliberated. Beers were drunk. Offsides were called.

Then we went over and walked through the possible house. And we swooned a little at the Arts & Crafts touches, looking past the orange shag carpet, the dark wooden paneling, the frosted windows. We walked the circle of the main floor; we admired the large bedrooms. We sighed. We ran our fingers along the woodwork.

In short order, we made an offer, contingent (never again would we pay two mortgages and raise children on The Scurvy Diet!) on selling our current house. These very fine people didn’t even counter but rather accepted our first offer.

The wait began. Could our realtor manage to convince some young guileless couple that 960 feet was just the right footage in which to start their own soccer team?

To distract ourselves from the tension of keeping a house “showable” with two small kids around (“No, Girl, you may not play dollies. Sit quietly in the corner with your toy sponge and practice that mopping technique Mommy showed you. No, Wee Niblet, you may not throw your toys and food out of the high chair, as potential buyers could be peeking in the windows. Use your chubby toddler paws and hang onto the broom Mommy has inserted into them. Make yourself useful, Lug”), we went to the playground a lot. And we attended my college reunion.

How on earth it had been fifteen years since I had graduated from college was a mystery to me because, surely, clearly, I wasn’t a day over twenty-four.

But as long as I’d been invited to a weekend of revelry, I was game for going along with the pretense that I was thirty-seven.

What was gorgeous about that reunion was how the comfort and history and familiarity of the place and people grounded me at the time when, in daily life, I didn’t know what was coming next (a soccer ball to the skull, for all I knew). We all lapsed into the roles, speech patterns, and ways of conversing that had become habit half a lifetime before.

Yup. That’s me there, ya eagle eye!

In the midst of that easy companionship, reaching back to some of the most invigorating years of my life, I didn’t care where I’d live the next month or if my kids ever got their own rooms (picture it if we didn’t move: Brother and Sister Share a Room: The Teen Years: “Mommy, why does Girl put that strappy thing over her chest every morning before she puts on her shirt?” or “Mommy, why do you change Niblet’s sheets every morning after he spends some special quiet time laying in the bed?”).

Nope. I didn’t care ’bout nuthin’. I just loved my friends and drinking and dancing and rocking out and the feeling of my feet on hallowed ground. I regressed even further and was 18 again.

This dude, one Martin Zellar, wrote and sang the soundtrack to my 1985-1989. He is my second husband. Don’t tell anyone. Especially him. Or his first wife. But I’m sure he loves me.

Naturally, once Reunion was over, Monday rolled around again, and with it, real life; back at home, I fretted over selling our small house so that we could move over one street—the 100 yards to bliss. As well, acting 18 again during the light of day quickly got embarrassing, especially when I kept insisting the clerks check my ID at the liquor store when no one–I mean no one–was asking.

Still aglow from reunionizing, and finally starting to detoxify, I had occasion to shine my face up to the sun and thank the gods of Home Upgrade (a bellicose crew, the triad of Scrape, Sand, and Varnish) for their blessings. Our damn house sold, to a young couple, looking to create their own wee Beckham.

Shortly thereafter, we moved the 100 yards. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLL!

Here, now, 100 yards away from our previous house, life is lovely. Gracious. A place that will–knock U-Haul–witness my first grey hairs.

Not that I have any.

Nor will I for some time yet.

After all, I’m only 24.

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college friends reunions

Time After Time

I’m currently the bologna in a Colorado sandwich.

I’m aware makes no sense, so don’t scrutinize it too closely. Cutting through my nonsense, what I’m saying is that I’m currently in Minnesota, having recently come back from a kamikaze weekend in Colorado. And tomorrow, the family and I are taking off for, you guessed it, Colorado.

Compared to my opening statement, that makes lots of sense, right?

Here’s the deal:

Last weekend, a good friend of mine from college who lives outside of Boulder, CO (she’s in the sassy orange halter top in the photo here) was the recipient of a suprise 40th birthday party. Her husband, knowing how wiley she is, threw the party six weeks before her actual birthday; in addition to that, he went through all sorts of machinations, created tangles of lies, and even went so far as to fake a phone call or two in her presence…and if that isn’t the definition of a loving relationship, I don’t know what is.

Because my college years were a floodlit time in my life–when everything seemed heightened and special and life changing and full of promise–making the trip to Colorado for a patio-top restaurant party to honor this friend seemed well worth the effort. Of course, since I was so busy being all floodlit and stuff, I ended up majoring in English in college and then becoming a teacher, which means I now don’t make enough money to pay for such a boondoggle weekend myself. Enter My Benefactress (the brunette in the photo–and if you want to say anything about her like “nice rack,” go ahead. She can take it), the pal who funded the trip. In my defense, I would like to stress that, although she paid for plane fare, car rental, and hotel room, I did shell out on a $6.00 toll road, thus carrying my weight.

The party was gratifyingly fun, the after party back at their house even more so. Stir in some good meals, a lovely run up Boulder Creek canyon one morning, and my introduction to a new drink called a Dark and Stormy (check it, cocktail fiends: put some ice in a glass, squeeze some lime over it, toss in a shot or two of rum, top it with ginger brew [non-alcoholic…kind of a ginger soda pop, available at co-ops or organic food type shops], and, if you’ve got it, mash up some fresh ginger and stir it in, too), and the weekend was outrageously happy making.

I also considered it a scouting mission for the upcoming family road trip. Yup, we’re leaving on Monday, the 18th, and will be driving a huge loop around the West for almost three weeks. First, we’ll head down to Austin, MN, where I used to live, for a visit with a sainted friend; then we’ll head through Iowa into Nebraska, where we’ll stop over in Lincoln for many hours of play in the tremendous children’s museum there (seriously, this is the third time we’ve worked that museum into our trip plans), eventually meandering into Colorado, where we’ll see all sorts of friends in Denver and Boulder (including my sister, freshly back in Denver after her two years in Guatemala); after that, it’s up through Wyoming, stopping to see my great-aunt in Cody, and then heaving over, bravely, for a glimpse of boiling mud pots in Yellowstone Park; after all this, we’ll drive to Billings to help my mom clean out her storage locker there (she’s now a Californian) before we hire a trailer to help us haul our storage locker spoils across North Dakota and back to Minnesota. At that point, we’ll collapse in a heap and stare at the new furniture in despair, as it’s not like we actually have room for it. But how very fun to go get it!

Indeedy, I’ve just been to Colorado, and now I’m heading there again. I do so love the shortness of breath and leathery skin I get while there, you see.

So I’ll be trying to post from the road and check in occasionally. But my trolling through your blogs, which has already taken a hit this summer since I’m never in my office, which is where all the best computer loafing takes place, may suffer even more.

However, I have little copies of each of your avatars framed and hanging in a shrine in the corner of my dining room, and I’m hiring a neighbor kid to come light the candles and incense in your honor twice a week, so I’m certain you’ll still feel the lurve, even in my absence.

Gotta go get the motor runnin’ now.

And, even though I do intend to keep posting with my usual regular irregularity, if you start to miss the feeling of Jocelyn Holding Forth, just come here and gaze upon this photo

The sight of me, mid-monologue, is certain to quash any wistful pangs you might be feeling. I’m here for ya like that.

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