This week on Facebook has brought a flurry of activity among the 1980s crowd at my college. I went to a very small private college in upper East Tennessee. I guess there were probably 800 students at Milligan then; now enrollment is close to 1,000. At a college that size, you pretty much know everyone. Add to the size factor that nearly everyone lived on campus (commuters were extremely rare) and that our campus was a town itself (Milligan College has its own post office), and, well, it's not surprising that we connect instantly on Facebook some 20 years (more or less) later.
So I've been dreaming about college for the past three nights. You know those college nightmares in which you panic because you have a final exam to take and realize that you haven't been to class all semester? Those are exhausting dreams. I wake feeling unsettled and stressed. And sometimes I wake feeling a little lost.
The big thing this week has been reminiscing about life at Pardee Hall, one of the men's dorms. Dr. H. and all our guy friends lived there. Two out of my three brothers who attended Milligan lived there. It was a dorm with a life and mythology of its own: a glorious, seedy, smelly, grimy place in which to live (or if you were dating someone in Pardee, to hang out in the lobby or dangle from a first floor window. This was Christian college = no girls allowed in boys' dorms, people.)
Tragically, Pardee was knocked down in the 1990s because it was supposedly structurally unsound. (No one really believes that silliness. The general consensus is that the administration just couldn't deal with generation after generation of Pardee Rowdies.)
This October will be my 20th reunion, and it will also be the Pardee Hall reunion. Dr. H. and I are absolutely going; we're fortunate to live just two hours away. I've been pondering this week how strong our collective memories are of that four or five year time period. I am amazed at how easily we fall back into friendships, as if these past 20 years were just a summer break. We message back and forth privately, trying to clarify who exactly that person dated, or what happened to so-and-so. The thing about a small college is that, like I said, you know everyone--or you know their older sister or their younger brother. It's a very, very small world, indeed.
And all this makes me ponder even more what my children's experiences will be in college. I blogged about that last month, about how I wish for my children to have lives filled to the brim with amazing friendships. I know not all friendships come from the college years. I have a few good friends from high school, a few from our stint in Iowa, and a whole village of amazing friends here.
But reconnecting with college classmates brings it all back so clearly: the hundreds of meals shared, the constant buzz of conversation, the anticipation of the day and night ahead, the adventure, the joy and the despair, the smell of lilacs, the perfect sunset, and the dark hump of Buffalo Mountain protecting our little campus, sheltering us in its cool black shadow.