What happens in Gambier (aka the Soap Opera reunion special part 1)

June 7, 2006

..doesn't necessarily have to stay in Gambier, because here I am blogging about it. Don't worry, nothing much happened besides two friends that we love committing their lives together before God and that was pretty awesome as these things go. I didn't meet any ghosts of my former self walking down Middle Path, I didn't graffiti Sunset Cottage, I didn't get to enter the monolithic FRA (or KAC, as it is now known).

So let's start going over the did's.

When D and I pulled out of the Akron airport in our rental car, it was raining cold rain. I didn't mind, since we rarely have those down here in Florida and it was a nice contrast. It was only about a two hour drive into Gambier, but along roads that we really had never taken before, so not much looked familiar it took awhile for it to sink in that I was really going back to Kenyon. It's been two years, and I've been lucky to see most of my friends at least once if not twice, but I figured seeing them all back together at Kenyon was going to be a whole different ball game. To be honest, I was dreading it a little. Three weeks ago we were all together for another friend's wedding reception, which was also beautiful and for whom I was also incredibly happy. We all got along naturally, very little awkwardness all around considering. I just flew home the next day feeling turned inside out. I still don't know why I was feeling so weird, exactly, but the day after I got home I spent hours making a playlist that led off with Keane's "Everybody's Changing." I guess after that weekend I pretty much realized that everybody was. Maybe I've missed out on noticing since I don't see them that often and I've kind of been changing at breakneck speed myself since graduation–living in a foreign country, living in Florida, getting married, starting grad school, watching my mom be so sick I thought she might die, watching Project Runway. Change is good. Change is what we all so desperately needed during water-treading, nowhere-going senior year. And here we are–employed, paying rent, making plans, hoping for things. But for a moment, while we were sitting in a room at the Holiday Inn in Greentree, PA, I realized that there's no such thing as superglue when it comes to friendships. We could all spin into our lives and turn each other into two-dimensional memories. I know that wouldn't be anything so important as a tragedy, but it frightened me. I need these people, and I'm not sure they know it. I'm not sure they need to. (Yeah, "Landslide" is on that playlist too.)

So I was nervous about going back to Kenyon, the exact place where these friendships had grown to mean so much to me, the place that I had left with big dreams and uncertainty. Now a few things are certain. I'm married to the man I barely dared to admit I wanted to be married to, and I'm pretty sure I've given up on most of those big dreams, although if I'm honest I'm not sure how much I wanted them even then. They were just some ideas of what I thought I should do. I'm happy most days to be out of the PhD mindset and there's still plenty of time for some of those other things I thought about. I was just worried that walking down Middle Path again was going to stir me up, and that my closest friends weren't coming and that'd I'd feel shut out of the group people who were there because they were closer to the bride and groom, and all in all that I'd feel a way I can't remember the last time I felt: nervous that I would be a disaster of held back emotion and awkward laughter. Nervous that no one would like me.
All of that, fortunately, turned out to be melodrmatic rubbish. We met up with friends within moments of driving into town, had a fabulous lunch at the Kenyon Inn (a place we'd never dared to eat without our parents as undergrads) and began a full weekend of celebration. It was kind of like the Kenyon experience on steroids: Fiesta on Friday, wedding on Saturday morning, Hunan for dinner, Church of the Holy Spirit on Sunday, with faculty members and Middle Ground in between. It was almost like being back, without the post office box.

The wedding itself was wonderful. I am thrilled for this couple. I also loved how personal their wedding was. You could tell that they had put their own hearts into every detail. They also did their own readings during the ceremony, to which I say hats off. There is no way I could have spoken during my own wedding. The part that I will most likely remember forever was the toasts, each so heartfelt and personal that you will never hear anything like them at any other wedding, including one which was an impromptu South African song by the Chambersingers present. I cried. I am happy that they will have such a beautiful day to remember.

Later that evening, we went out to Hunan and then assembled at the Cove for our obligatory night on the village. I had forgotten how cheap it was to drink in Ohio… anyway, a good time was had by all and even though we were bummed that they close at 10 during the summer, that was probably in our best interest. Before heading to bed, I took a long walk around campus with Ms. Sullivan. It probably helped that I was a bit tipsy while I saw all the buildings that had been the stage of 3 years of my life. Instead of having to analyze what it felt like to seem them again, I could just register them and be glad to see them again, but also glad that I didn't have to live in them anymore. Especially Hanna. It was fun, and it was perfect to share with Ms. Sullivan.

When I got back to the dorm, people were still awake and more imbibing was taking place. I partook, a bit, and had some more good laughs. When D and I got back to our room, I hit play on the mix CD that Mr. B had given me earlier in the day. For those of you who believe in synchronicity, the song that came on was "Forever Young" by Youth Group, which I recognized because it has been on The OC some time in the past season. I was still a bit drunk, but for some reason it just seemed like our anthem, all of our anthem, all of us gathered to celebrate everything that is to come in the context of everything we had shared in the past. Why don't we just stay forever young? Why not? We don't have the power, but we never say never people. Let's do it. I cried heavy, hot tears, but it wasn't sad, it was just life.

If one thing you gain by growing up and getting married is the ability to interact with people you used to be really attached to with some level of detachment, to sail in and out of social situations cleanly with no emotional intimacy or unasked questions or doubts, then it's probably a good thing. I just hope that once in a while a moment still happens when you can be honest with your friends in a way that you would never be with anyone else. I hope there is a moment sometime, still, that we can see each other and let ourselves be seen.

Sunday morning I woke up after a few people had already left, no good-bye's made. I realized that was fine with me. Good-bye is so overrated. It never makes you feel better. And besides, if you don't do it you can just pretend that you are going to keep running into people. We went to service at the Church of the Holy Spirit, where I saw Prof. Bennett and caught up on Classics department gossip. Afterwards we had lunch with Deborah and Jim in Mount Vernon and hit the road back to Akron.
Possible in-jokes that might evolve out of this weekend? Hmm, not sure that I was close enough to the inner circle of the wedding party to be in on anything, but a lot of us did get to watch Mr. Adashek and Mr. Coiner's cinematic masterpiece, The Hill, which is a vertiable cornucopia of jokes you can only get if you went to Kenyon College.

As we were driving back to Akron, we listened to the mix CD that Mr. B had given me. I listened to Forever Young, but I didn't put it on repeat.


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