In June, the 50th reunion of my college class is coming up. Even though I won’t be going to the Big One, I made a 1500-mile trip to eat lunch with seven other women in the more intimate setting of a mini-reunion organized by a college friend of mine..
Colleges like Stanford, Wellesley, Vassar and Dartmouth are leading the way in encouraging their alums. to organize these regional events, more intimate than a major college reunion. Maybe the associations have just found one more way to prompt alums into giving to the alma mater but the events are not fundraisers. These get-togethers are a chance to talk, usually over lunch or dinner.
When I learned by mail that a college friend was organizing a mini in Los Angeles, I decided to go. The trip cost me my round trip plane fare from Mexico and other expenses but paid off in intangible ways. Besides, I took the chance to combine the mini with visiting a cousin and a friend I’d made later in life.
The mini-reunion lunch occurred on what turned out to be a bad hair day for me, but the lunch afforded several satisfying results I couldn’t have expected:
- Two of the women present (we were eight in all) offered spontaneous comments on what they remembered of me back in the 1950s when I was a college student.
- I figured out that the seemingly most accomplishing lives were not necessarily the most satisfying..
- We all skirted controversial subjects in favor of maintaining a common bond even though we may have been on different sides of the fence politically or in lifestyle.
- woman who was leaving early to avoid the Los Angeles rush hour paused to tell us about her passion, volunteering to support the local opera company. Her assertiveness prompted each of us to make a personal statement.
Before setting off for the mini I did homework, including looking at several back issues of the alumnae magazine still piled into a basket in the corner of my living room. I wanted to see what alums of more or less my age were wearing at such an occasion. Because I live in Mexico, my wardrobe is limited, but I figured that a good pair of pants, the blouse I had bought a few months before for my son’s engagement party, and a vest in the event of cool weather would do the trick. I scheduled a haircut for the day before I would be catching the plane.
That was a mistake. I had so many things to do that day, I totally forgot to go to the stylist. But I was brimming with enthusiasm for the event, it didn’t matter, especially when I saw the price of a haircut in Santa Monica.
All the others attending the mini-reunion lived within seventy miles of each other. I don’t know that any of them saw each other much except for occasional alumni events. Interestingly, most of the women who came had gone to college from other parts of the country like northern California or upper New York state or somewhere else.I think only our hostess was a Los Angeles native.
What did we talk about over lunch? Very little about our children or our health, mostly about our hopes, our disappointments, our accomplishments, our fitness activities. And of course a few, although surprisingly few, recollections of college days.
Because we were Wellesley alums, the subject of Hillary Clinton came up. What did we think of her, someone asked? Yes, the question could have led to strong statements, but we settled for the idea that she had always been a leader – at the college, she was president of her class. Another question was whether anyone was still working for money. In our case, only one was and not in any major way.
A mini-reunion is not for everyone. I think only one in four members of our class who lived in or near LA came to the lunch. Maybe some were still on the job, others probably satisfied to go to the Big Reunion back in Massachusetts (so was everyone at the Mini except for me) and others who just didn’t have a strong interest in the old college tie.
I should add that although the College Alumnae Association helped out with names and email addresses, organizing the Mini-Reunion was more of a task than its organizer might have expected. It involved settling on a date, finding a host, and responding to a lot of emails while people took their time deciding whether they were coming.
For me, beyond that bonding with the women who were there, the mini-reunion gave me a chance to catch up with American women who grew up at the same time I did. Yes, I know American women my age in Guanajuato, my adopted Mexican city, but we hadn’t shared our intense younger days.
Maybe I’ll be back in Los Angeles for another mini in five years or go to the Big Reunion next time on the Wellesley College campus. Either way, I’m crossing my fingers that we will all be there.