Friday, June 10, 2011

Graduation Day--Fifty Years Ago!

The master of ceremonies at our class reunion dinner last night mentioned that June 10th (today!) is the fiftieth anniversary of our graduation day at what was then called Illinois State Normal University. I had a flashback to that very hot June day. The ceremony took place outside in the blazing sun. My parents and youngest brother arrived in plenty of time. They brought one of my close childhood friends along.

I remember refusing to wear a dress under my robe, undies and full slip seemed like more than enough in 90+ degrees. My chair was in the full sunlight, and at one point my arm grazed the zipper on my gown, and it felt like I'd touched a hot iron. Once the event concluded and pictures taken, it was time to pack Dad's car with all the stuff I'd accumulated over the year. Tearful hugs to friends and we were on the road to home. Four of the best years of my life had come to an end. It was bittersweet, being both an end to a happy time but also the beginning of my teaching career. Little did I know then that I would only teach for five years.

Only about 20% of our class came to the reunion. Some have already died, others are in ill health and more either had no interest or other conflicts. I knew the majority of those who did come. Some I recognized immediately while others appeared perfect strangers until I checked the name tag. Good thing they did use large letters which were easy to read! One of the best parts for me was reuniting with my college roommate. Carol and I have kept in touch via Christmas and birthday cards and an occasional e-mail, but I had not seen her for twenty years. In 30 seconds, it was as if we had never been apart.

After the luncheon, we walked over to our favorite dorm with several others who lived there. Fell Hall was the most loved dorm on campus and Carol and I had the good fortune to live there for two years. We'd heard that it had been renovated several years ago, but we weren't prepared for what we found. Our senior year, we lived on the 4th floor in a room with two dormer windows. Our study areas were under those high windows. When we stepped off the elevator yesterday, we saw our door, first room in the corridor next to the lounge. But our room had been turned into two offices! The whole building is now offices for professors and others. The beautiful living room on the main floor that was once filled with elegant furnishings was now a cold receiving area with utilitarian chairs. The beautiful fireplace mantel was still there but the fireplace itself had been boarded up. Progress? Perhaps, but something special now remains only in our memory banks.

And yet, those memory banks are fine. So many memories were triggered at yesterday's events, and I suspect there will be more today at the update on university happenings and the final luncheon. I'm glad I came. I've posed for pictures more in one day than in the past five years altogether! I've smiled more than any human should be expected to, and I've enjoyed it all! Can't wait to get home and start writing.

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