Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Barb Exler

E-mails have been flying today. A friend of mine from college died on Saturday and today is the viewing (in Arizona).

Don't think less of me, but while I was in college I belonged to a sorority. I got pulled in by my best friends who were already members. At first, I set my sights on being labeled "worst pledge" because the whole business seemed archaic and well...not very cool.

I'm a New Yawker from Lawng Island, for cryin' out loud! We're street-wise and cynical. We don't link arms and sing songs about sisterhood! I joined as a lark but as fate would have it, I almost became the last living member.

In my junior year, we were down to a mere six members. This was the oldest sorority on campus. We had a house full of crowded composite photos, jackets with embroidered emblems on the pockets, beautiful antique chairs for the officers to sit in during meetings. Even my anti-sorority brain could grasp how sad it would be if that ended.

Of the six members left, FIVE were graduating. The one lonely girl returning the following year was...drum roll please...yeah. It was me. We made jokes about the meetings I would conduct, running from chair to chair since I would occupy every office.

Well, to make a long story short, this guy we knew happened to mention our plight to some girls he knew in the dorms. The entire floor decided to pledge. They also did it as a lark. They figured they could make the sorority whatever they wanted it to be. (Oh, by the way, that guy we knew? I married him.)

Ironically, I became their pledge mistress! Goofy little Caryl who had changed the words to all the solemn songs into parTAY songs was suddenly in charge of teaching the new girls to respect the rituals and tradition of Alpha Clio.

And somehow, in those meetings, we all learned the value of sharing a common bond, no matter how silly it seemed on the surface. We stuck to tradition. We used the antique chairs in meetings and wore our embroidered jackets. We shared a house and a history. We became a family.

And the proof has been in this awful day. E-mails have circulated sharing memories and disbelief.

"To all: I'll be heading over to the viewing a couple of hours from now. I'll carry all your thoughts and prayers with me and pass them onto Dennis and Danielle. If any of you have a special message to pass on, please let me know soon. --Gail"

I keep reading all the emails and I’m still not believing this is possible. I am having the hardest time putting words on paper (so to speak). But I would like to say how much I appreciate your being there and being the spokesperson for us.

I met Barb in Fall 1977 walking down the hill from Newton to Erie Dorm. She kind of tripped and we both giggled like 13 years old (what the heck we were only 17 and 18) and so began a friendship. We shared so much more than being Bio majors, living in Erie Dorm and Ward Place, our daughter’s names, she was my CLIO mother and helped me through an incredible personal experience. Her smile is all I see right now and I am grateful for that. Thank you again for carrying all our thoughts with you and letting Dennis know how much she was loved."

"I have been reading all of your emails with such a heavy heart. I am so thankful to have our sorority represented and feel that after all these years...we really are a family! What a wonderful feeling. Life has a way of bringing us back to the what is truly important and I will keep Barb and her family and all of you in my prayers. Thanks for being such an important part of my life!!"

"I am so proud to be a Clio ..... I am crying for the loss of a special person and for the love that binds us all together. It's nice to see that no matter the miles that separate us or the years that have passed we are forever connected. Gail Thank you for representing us."

"Caryl, it is sad for Clio to lose someone special but look at the love that surrounds us. Sometimes something good comes from bad things .... Barb has brought us all together once again! She is smiling down on us!!"

So, Gail is going to the viewing. Mary is making a memory box for Barb's daughter. My contribution is this- Photos of a time when the world was open to us and the future lay ahead bright with possibility:

By the way, I still have that sweatshirt! That's me-------------------^


Jennifer said...

Caryl, I'm very sorry about your friend, but now cynical old Yankee me is kinda jealous of your sorority. It sounds like you have a wonderful network of friends for life.

caryl said...

jennifer, we'll always be sisters-in-Taylor. *sniff*

Chicken & Waffles said...

I'm so sorry about your friend, Caryl. Still, this was a wonderful recounting of some wonderful days and a sweet memorium.