It started off-handedly. It was an intriguing idea, and it was easy to do, so I created a Facebook page for my sorority sisters. I built it, and I wondered if they’d come. Before I knew it, I was Social Chairman again, organizing what I thought of as a “pilot” reunion. If it went well, we’d do others.
It went well. It was a lot of things: a trip down memory lane, a chance to re-view our housemates–and to see them with fresh eyes. It also forced us to remember–and cringe at–the not-so-nice byproduct of being in a close-knit, almost inbred community. Legend had it that during rush-week, we made a grand gesture of folding the coats in, so as not to see the label. It was untrue (I think), but no matter what others thought of us, we knew we were “the Iotas.”
Some have “joined” the page; others aren’t into social networking. No matter, reconnection can happen on Facebook or in emails. We go back and forth, sharing the Roman numerals of our lives: partnership status, children/grandchildren, careers. It’s like time-lapse photography.
So what is it that’s so compelling about reunions–and reconnecting after so many years? Ironically, I’m coming up on my 50th high school reunion, and have been involved in a similar process with those classmates. The woman–and former co-valedictorian–who’s organizing that event asked us to answer a few key questions for the reunion booklet, including your best and worst memories of high school. (My worst was being spat on and called a “dirty Jew.”) I read the various blurbs, and then turn to my Class of ‘61 yearbook, juxtaposing this new information with each person’s 17- or 18-year-old self. I read an inscription scribbled over his or her face and get glimpses of who that person was to me. It’s oddly satisfying.
The fact is, these people knew me when: when I went to sock hops and wore circle pins; when I acted in the senior play, when we ate French fries and cokes after school at my father’s diner.
And my sorority sisters know an even more significant “when.” They knew the old boy friends, the ones I didn’t marry, the one I did. They remember my favorite songs. They remember spring formals. One old friend still talks about the time she ate dinner with my parents and promptly splattered grease on my mother’s white collar. It’s not just that our lives were intertwined or that they were privy to the details of my life. It’s also that we can now piece together our young lives, the group experience, and see how we’ve been affected by it. I sense that they know things about me I don’t even know.
Most of my high school friends and sorority sisters are now grandmothers, and we wonder how we got here. As one of my new-found sorors marveled, “Just yesterday we were putting on our dinner dresses and hoping not to sit with [our “housemother”] Aunt Edna.”
And what does this do for–or have to do with–our daughters? For one thing, they see how important it is to acknowledge and keep up with one’s past. Mine already gets this; she has an annual girls’ weekend with her college chums, and is in contact with many characters from high school as well. Thanks to the Internet, she doesn’t ever have to lose touch.
But there’s another important message here for our daughters: Despite the obviously different frames of reference, we’re really not that different, are we? I suspect my daughter and many of her peers could relate to this statement, posted recently by one of my sorority sisters:
I loved the women! I loved being part of something, that quite frankly, I still think of as so very special. It was, and continues to be a memory of which I am so very fond.
And someday–just as we’re now doing–our daughter will be asking themselves. “How did we get to be grandmothers?”