Monday, June 9, 2014

I went to reunion and all I got was a t-shirt, and some priceless stuff


I spent this weekend at my college (Brandeis) reunion. Amongst my many deep thoughts (is that the same dresser that was in my dorm back then? How is it possible the food is still so mediocre? Why didn't anyone tell us our hair was so BIG?) were these: There's nothing like hanging out with old friends, and finding others who also have children with special needs.

My friends Wendy and Hedy and I had decided we'd go without our husbands and kids. I drove up Friday, and spent part of the afternoon roaming the campus alone. It felt surreal. In some ways it seemed like I had only recently been there, so familiar were certain parts. There was the suite I lived in freshman year with 15 other girls—one phone, one good shower, one lousy one. There was the building where I got my mail, ate lunch and worked in the bookstore. There were the stairs I'd climb daily to classes. There was the library, where I did more socializing than studying. All of it, so ingrained in my memory. Only it's been a couple of decades since I graduated and, as one friend said, we've lived a lot of lives since then.

Castle dorm (it's not fancy inside, in case you're wondering)
Ten years ago, Dave and Max came to my reunion. I remember getting melancholy about how carefree life had been in school. I felt a little sad seeing other parents with their toddling kids and Max, at one and a half, still not crawling. I was aware that people had heard what had happened to him. At a breakfast, I was tossing Max into the air because it made him giggle and someone I knew glared at me and said "Be careful!" as if I was going to break him more than he had been.

This time around, I was in a much better place, and psyched to be away with friends. How often does that happen?! We stayed up late in the hotel room talking, just like in school. I discovered that I am a bed hog and that I snore and laugh in my sleep, something good friends will delight in telling you but, evidently, not your husband. At the reunion events, it was good to hear what people were up to, and interesting seeing how they looked (wrinkle compare-a-thons: inevitable). With some friends, it felt like we picked up the conversation where it had left off years ago. I laughed so hard taking photo booth pictures, I cried.

At a BBQ lunch, I introduced myself to a dad who I'd heard had two kids with cerebral palsy. At a dinner, a woman came up to me and said hello; we have two mutual friends I know from blogland. I knew who she was, though I don't think we'd ever spoken in college. She has a son with autism, and she mentioned other classmates who have kids with autism. Then she and her husband told me about their son's bar mitzvah, and it gave me real hope for having one for Max.

I'd had the warm-fuzzies all weekend—being around old friends completely reboots your spirits. But the insta-connection you have with other special needs parents is its own kind of heartening.

I had to leave early Sunday morning to get to Sabrina's dance recital. I packed up quietly and crept out the door as my friends slept, then I drove home feeling happy. College-like lighthearted. And I don't think it was because my hair was less big.

14 comments:

  1. I haven't seen the campus since moving out of state in '98 but I hear there have been tons of changes. I know for one thing, climbing the Rabb steps would be a whole different experience with 40-something year old knees :) Glad you had good time.
    Erica

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    1. Yes, many changes. I've basically gone back every five years, and this time there were a couple of new buildings plus a whole new Ridgewood! It looks great.

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  2. Sooo fun!!! We missed u this weekend! xxoo

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    1. As Daveypoo might say, I had a GOOD reunion. We will have to coordinate our own!

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  3. I'm a regular reader and a professor at Brandeis in the Biology Dept! So this is feeling very small-worldish even though of course I don't actually know you. So glad you had a beautiful weekend for your reunion. And why the food is so horrible is a mystery to all of us, they even changed food vendors last year.

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    1. Hi, Sue! I so love this connection. Hope the Biology Dept. is treating you well. I was English/Am Lit!

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  4. Heading to my college reunion this weekend (Vassar), leaving the kids and husband at home. This post gave me something to look forward to! Thanks for reminding me what to look for...

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    1. ENJOY!!! Don't drink the punch, k? He he.

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  5. Great post Ellen! A reminder of how many lives we live after college and the "better place" we get to with time. Thanks for sharing.

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  6. Ellen....
    "There's nothing like hanging out with old friends, and finding others who also have children with special needs." Wow. Just wow!! ;)
    Why shouldn't Max experience his Bar Mitzvah? Doesn't that celebrate coming of age and manhood? At thirteen, right? When Max reaches that age, I see no reason why he cannot experience his Bar Mitzvah!! Yes, it will be different. But what is "normal", anyway? I for one would love to attend Max's unconventional Bar Mitzvah!! Just sayin'!! ;-D
    Love you later, Raelyn





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    1. Yes, at 13. And yes, we want him to have one, I've just started thinking on what might be an experience that he will appreciate and tolerate! He is still not one for crowds. Although if this fireman phase lasts, he might be fine with anything we do if we invite the local fire dept. And a-men to "What is 'normal,' anyway?"

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  7. So glad you got away and enjoyed - We are still trying to figure out nathan's bar mitzvah and he's almost 15 - when he began studying for the one at 13, he had a slight break and was out of school and inpatient for a while - got out and into a program and new meds and that took about another year and then started HS - he is still all over the place and hates being taught but really wants one and it kills me that I have not figured out a way to make it happen

    I am so glad that you connected with other special needs families - When we were younger and childless, the social playing field, although difficult to navigate was understandable and manageable - Then children come along and presto, we are parents who are going to talk bottles and ferberizing and playgrounds and the best neighborhood hangout for families and then, not - because our children aren't like theirs - or so we all, separately, imagined and feared - We all feel alone at some point but then we discover that we are not alone - even at our college reunions

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  8. Never realized you went to Brandeis! Oddly, about 40% of my college friends have at least one SN child, mostly ASD spectrum although one of mine also has neuromotor issues. Wonder what was in the water at Waltham. Makes for a great built-in support group, though! With love from the Class of 1991.

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Thanks for sharing!



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