Late August, 1991. My stomach is trembling, my heart leaping, my eyes tearing, as my family drives the two and one half hours across verdant farm land towards my new home, A College, tucked in the middle of corn fields and more corn fields.
I walk down the hallway with the big dinosaur painted on the wall, an institutional key in my hand, and look of panic assuredly on my face, when a chipper girl wearing a striped shirt stops me.
"Hi! I'm H. Are you on this hallway? I live just down there! Welcome to A College! Can I help you with anything?"
Later on that week, the rest of the upperclassmen filter back, including E, who lives with F down the hall. I notice that she loves the color red.
April, 1992. A lazy afternoon during Spring Term, a halcyon semester of taking a single class (Musical Theater, the Gilbert and Sullivan show Patience. I'm the gopher girl and manager of sorts.)
"Wanna go play tennis? I bet Mr. Swanky and Mr. Suave are out there," my roommate N asks. "I invited S to come along--she's in the musical too."
We walk over to the courts and meet S, who is fun and funny, with a contagious zest for life.
Eighteen years later, and these ladies are among my best friends. While some of our group faded away into the shadows, and some of our pairings are stronger than others, S, H, E, and I have maintained solid, sustaining friendships.
There's vast comfort to be found in friends who were there for the heartbreaking homesickness of college. Who shared the BIG bottle of Piesporter on Halloween (when, in a lapse of judgment you all dressed up as sexy nuns). Who made regrettable fashion, hairstyle, and romantic choices alongside of you. Who grew up with you.
Who said goodbye as you moved 900 miles away to pursue an academic dream, and who came to visit during the balmy Alabama springs.
Who calmed your nerves before a job interview at yet another MLA conference.
Who offered up their home, and their parents' tranquil home on Lake Michigan, year after year, as places of respite and relaxation.
Who are your loudest cheerleaders and dearest friends.
Late last night, S and H arrived from Michigan on the ferry, spent the night at my home, and today we'll pile in the G6 for a trip across the rolling Dairyland, crossing the Mississippi River, and landing in Iowa, to visit E for a few days. None of us have seen where she and husband S live, and I've never even been to Iowa before. I can't wait for the miles to roll under the tires, and our conversation to ebb and flow across the highways.
I made a soundtrack for our trip, a mix CD of songs with memories (Bust a Move, some early 90s grunge) and summer songs of fun and happiness.
The greatest soundtrack of all is the distinctive sounds of my friends' laughter filling my car, as we wind our way to a reunion.