We drove here yesterday, Merv and I. We left Judge and Annie behind, in our big old house in Forestville, where a friend will stay with them. We came here to Vassar, to stay in Alumnae House for a class birthday party.
This building, Alumnae House, was my first introduction to Vassar. I am in a bedroom one floor beneath the little rooms for students that open up off a long corridor to share one bathroom. I stayed in a little cell my first two nights here. That first trip I peaked into the dining room, and took in the old woodwork, old medieval looking furniture. I admired the sunken living room with its sofas and chairs and and a big old painting. A library, with easy chairs and reading lights. A pub with murals on the walls of elongated girls playing games. Beer. Ice cream.
I ate breakfast by myself, soft boiled eggs and orange juice and toast. The day was warm and sunny. I walked out the door to the terrace. A bit of perspective, a hint of elevation, a smidgeon of nostalgia. Nostalgia! How could I be nostalgic for a school I hadn’t even accepted yet?
From the terrace I looked down the hill to the great old Norway Spruces with their elegant swooping branches of green. I walked through the quad, the four twin dorms with their wide expanse of windows, and then to Main Building. I understood the architecture, the Mansard roofs, the long windows, the Victorian settees. My house was a miniature version of this, after all.
I shadowed a student for the day. Slim, long legged, short dressed, swingy, bouncy page boy, she more floated than walked. So cheerful! So warm! So self-assured! So many friends. Classes. Lunch. Classes. Dinner. No doubt when I came my hair would bounce and swing. I would more float than walk. I would be cheerful. I would have a lot of friends. I definitely would wear the dress. I was pretty sure I had a pattern at home that I could use to make one just like that.
Night Owls practice! A women’s a cappella group. “Do you want to come practice with us?” “Oh yes I love to sing.” I had no idea what a capella meant. They got their notes from a pitch pipe. Soprano, tenor, alto, bass. The rhythm! The syncopation! The harmony, amazing chords, jazz chords, parts that slithered up next to each other in discord except it was just right. I would join this group.
Rehearsal done, we went back to her dorm to talk with her roommates. About boys. West Point boys. Yale boys. Princeton boys. Harvard boys. Hmmm.
The long day over, I walked alone back up the hill to Alumnae House, for the night in my little third floor cell. An early morning taxi ride to the train. My mind was made up. I was coming here.
The big buildings promised grace and learning if you just walked in. The big parlors promised conversation and wisdom if you just sat in them. The big trees that promised protection and connection if you just sat under them. The music promised a group to be a member of.
I suspect today that I will see some grace, some learning, some wisdom. I am sure that is will hear some conversation. In a few minutes we will go downstairs and eat in the wood paneled dining room. We will laugh and remember and talk about lives well lived, lives painfully lived, adventures to come, songs sung, a really big 50th reunion around the corner. But Nostalgia? Not for a second! Too many things to do!