June 3

Reunion Weekend


The previous year’s Alumni Weekend at Ellen’s undergraduate college had been bittersweet.  Upon arrival, she’d learned that the last of her history teachers had decided to retire. Later, she attended a memorial event honoring her favorite English teacher:  he’d been her thesis advisor, and the Freshman class she’d taken from him inspired her to drop an intended math major and switch to the humanities.

At the memorial event, students who graduated in the 80s and 90s read poems and bits of novels, and shared heartfelt classroom anecdotes.  Near the end of the event, Jenny leaned close.  “We’re getting old,” she whispered.  “All our teachers are retiring, or dead.”

The offhand, sardonic comment from her former roommate hit Ellen really hard.   Her emotions were already vulnerable after all those sad poems about grief, scenes of death from her favorite novels read aloud in somber voices.

The words made Ellen worry that her life had turned a corner.  Adults from her formative years would continue to age into oblivion.

Jenny herself, however, was part of Ellen’s consolation.  The college sent people postcards and emails about the reunion, scheduled for the first weekend in June, but there was no posted list of alumni who planned to attend.  Ellen went on a lark, not expecting to see one of her closest college friends for the first time in 30 years.  The memories flowed unbidden.  They laughed and drank and named people and places she thought she’d forgotten.  A few other attendees she’d barely known back in the day became new intimate friends, filling in more memories.

It hadn’t been the end of an era after all.  It was a rekindling of friendships from her college years.

Unfortunately, Ellen hadn’t kept up with the group, aside from a few early emails with Jenny.

Ellen had emailed everyone about this year’s reunion at the last minute, but when she checked before she began her two hour drive to the college, neither Jenny nor the others had responded.

Email wasn’t working that well, anyway.  Perhaps they’d tried to write back, but their replies hadn’t gotten through.

Honestly, she felt a little guilty that she hadn’t checked in on her college friends once the flu outbreak started.  She should have sent more emails, or fought ever-present busy signals until she finally reached them by phone.

Of course, they could have tried contacting her, too.  If they were able.

Maybe the college could have helped get everyone in touch.  Their phone line was busy, too, and they also hadn’t responded to her email.

The college also hadn’t updated their website to reflect this year’s reunion schedule.  It was always the first weekend in June, though, so Ellen was certain she had the right date.

It would be just like last year.  She’d drive up to the college, not expecting anyone, and be surprised at how many people showed up.