I am still singing our tunes.
A week ago it was our 40th reunion at Emma Willard. Thirty-five members of the class of 1969 ate and drank together, hugged and squealed, wandered old haunts alone and with others. Two rehearsals prepared us no longer so vocal choristers for Chapel on Sunday and we regained at least some of that lost register with Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”
On Saturday evening after class dinner, we romped down a musical memory lane.
Piano, guitar and cello came together in a rondo of an advertising jingle I forget. There was a reprise of the “Happy Birthday Cantata” Leslie composed for a faculty member our senior year and a rousing rendition of the “Junior Song” Lucy composed for us in 1968. We also serenaded long-wedded Sukie and Bruce with “Happy Together,” a tune which topped the Top Forty when they met and went all goo-goo eyes at a dance at Darrow way back then.
We had not all of us always been friends but now it seemed impossible to be anything else. What women do best is talk, and talk we did. We giggled about frivolities and whispered of darker subjects. Over and over we pondered whom we had been 40-some years ago and how much those girls now seemed like strangers.
We were not comparing notes about who we are now compared to who we were then. We did some of that twenty or thirty years ago when we still held to shreds of our youth in the face of encroaching age.
No, we were asking a deeper question: how could we who lived in such close contact for so many years have known so little about the realities of the lives the rest led outside our Alma Mater’s “grey walls protecting”? Did we just not pay attention? Had we not bothered to remember?
I sensed pain from women whose faces were familiar but whose identities were less so. I felt anxiety that casual unkindnesses committed had been cruelties that left painful scars. As I heard comments sincere, flattering, and astonishing about how I was remembered, I began to replay every conversation I could remember, every response in class, every offhand remark. Who knows what distance words travel between their formulation and their reception?
Did Jerry Garcia mean that when he wrote, “Ripple in still water, / When there is no pebble tossed, / Nor wind to blow”?
We may have thrown stones but only because of childish fascination with the splash we believed would subside and leave no trace.
The songs said it for me. Joyful, joyful, we adored the women we could finally know. We were, for that moment, so very happy together. We filled the cups we thought were empty and we hoped our cups would be full again. We “Let it be known that there is a fountain / That was not made by the hands of men.”
We sang our hearts out with the music of our lives.