Sunday, September 30, 2012

You CAN Go Home Again


Friday, September 21, 2012. The bar was the same as always: a big, dark rectangle with slightly sticky floors and a small dance floor that we alumni had taken over. It was our sorority's 140th reunion and our song was playing. Girls- sorry, women- formed a big circle, arms around one another, swaying and singing the words to "Piano Man."

To be honest, I never understood why this was our song. It has nothing to do with sisterhood or college life. In fact, there were times back at the old sorority house when I wouldn't participate because it didn't make sense to me. Nothing spells fun like a fiercely literal sorority girl!

But this night I gave into it. The lyrics didn't matter. What did matter was that thirty years before we had stood on that exact spot with that exact group (give or take), arms draped around random sisters' shoulders, singing those exact lyrics at the top of our lungs.

Photo by Samantha Schmidt Rogers

I looked around the circle, taking in the faces that were such a big part of my college experience and was suddenly overcome by our unusual bond. Biting my lip, I looked at the floor, hoping no one could see my tears. My God- the last time I saw some of these women we were undergraduates. Since then we've raised children. Had careers. Lost people dear to us.

And yet all of the years melted away with a few simple notes on a piano: the familiar intro to Billy Joels' "Piano Man." We ran from all corners of the Inn Between to meet on the dance floor. When we were back in college and again last weekend during our reunion- we ran.

"It's nine o'clock on a Saturday..." I'm a senior at Geneseo wondering what the heck I''m going to do with an English degree and no teaching certificate. "The regular crowd shuffles in..." I'm a retired columnist/librarian with two grown sons who are wondering what the heck they're gonna do with their lives.. "There's an old man sitting next to me..." 1980 or 2012, I'm a Clio. "Makin love to his tonic and gin..."  I know that when the song is over my sisters will be there for me to share whatever comes our way, whether it be a wedding, a birth or a funeral. I know this because we already have.

I can't explain it and quite frankly, I don't care why it is that no matter how much time has passed, when we get together the smiles are wide and genuine. The laughs are long and loud. The love is deep.

"Piano Man" ended and our indulgent DJ fired up another favorite of the sorority (and yes, I never understood why. And no- I don't care anymore). But this song-"Buttercup"- has never provoked philosophical thinking. When I hear its opening notes, it reminds me how good it feels to throw life's worries into the pile of coats in the corner of the bar, surround yourself with people you love and just dance.

Photo by Sue Breese

Photo by Karen Dinga Kudarauskas
Photo by Lisa Flanagan

Photo by Colleen Kirvin Gallagher 

Photo by Lisa Flanagan

Photo by Sue Breese


Anonymous said...

Amen Caryl! You made me cry! Really! I am sorry I was not able to make the reunion but I know those of you who were there thought of us not there as much as we did of you. Thanks for the story and hitting the nail right on. I can totally relate and am glad you were able to put it into words. Love you! Your NE Clio sister!

Anonymous said...

That was beautifully said. The one thing I love about our sorority, is that no matter when you were a member, our memories are the same and our bonds are truly made of steel. Thank you so very much for writing this.
Angie Bottini Sayles '90

Heather Johnson said...

Caryl, I loved this! You are so right. No matter how much time has passed or what happens in our lives, we are SISTERS! Our bond never break and we are one. We are Clio!!!
Heather Ehresman Johnson '91

Lisa Flanagan said...

This was great. We simply can not wait until an official function to try to get together again.

Nora said...

Aww Caryl, that was nice... if I hadn't wished with all my might that I could have been there before I sure wished I had been able to make it now :(

sue breese said...

great job caryl,capturing it all with some wonderful words and definitely the emotions behind "going home again".
super job.

Ilene Harnett said...

I Love reading your articles!! Always a Caryl fan!! You stated the feelings do well!! I need more time with Clio love!! Miss everyone and wish we had more time to chat!!! 2015 seems too far off to go HOME again.