Twenty three years ago, a group of students at Ohio University who lived on the third floor of Gamertsfelder Hall sophomore year became friends. With majors ranging from pre-med to photojournalism, fashion retail merchandising to physical therapy, you wouldn’t think we’d have much in common aside from attending the same school. For some reason, this diversity (with regard to majors, at least) was irrelevant.
Junior year, eight of us lived jammed together in a crappy, slumlord-run house on North Congress Street in Athens. It was falling apart. Mike’s room was pretty much a closet. I was in an unfinished basement room along with a rattling de-humidifier and a direct route to the washer and dryer. Dory and Lisa were in attic spaces, likely illegal and definitely fire traps. The TV frequently needed to be shut off then on again to continue working.
We loved it.
We made a home away from home, studied hard and threw amazing parties (including impromptu dance parties just for us housemates). We hung out on our porch with its rotting couches, and the music of the Indigo Girls, Barenaked Ladies, and anything classic rock came out of the speakers regularly. We argued over missing food, who was in charge of dish duty when, and who’s turn it was to vacuum. With the loss of Mike’s mom and my Type One diagnosis only a few months apart in the middle of the year, it was not a typical college experience.
Graduating was a sad process of letting go of that life. Saying goodbye to our second family and going out into the world and doing our best to not screw it up. Time passed and people got married (a few to each other!), babies came, careers, promotions, moves. Real life continued and for the most part we knew of each other only through Facebook.
Cut to this past weekend, and twelve of us returned to south-east Ohio to hang out, catch-up, and explore our old stomping ground.
It was a really great time, just being around each other. The conversation flowed and was mostly constant, but in those moments where there was no talking, it was a perfectly comfortable quiet. Much like it was so many years ago when we saw each other on a regular basis.
On Saturday we hung our at the Pigskin Bar for pretzel bite apps before heading over to dinner at Casa Nueva, then it was over to Tony’s Bar for some drinks and a few rounds of darts. On Sunday we started out slow, relaxing on the cabin’s porch with a coffee and breakfast before going kayaking. In the afternoon, we returned to Athens (40 minutes from our cabin) for lunch at a favorite spot called Bagel Street Deli, did a bit of shopping, explored the campus, and visited our dorm, sitting outside and remembering our lives way back when.
On our last night (there were too few nights, we all agreed), we cooked and ate at the cabin, and watched a slide show of old photos from school and laughed until we cried. When I was a kid at school at OU, I actually did think about what it would be like to get together many years in the future. I did not imagine that I would attend my 20th reunion single and childless. That was, admittedly, the only hard thing about this reunion for me. I didn’t have someone to rehash the day’s events with, and I had no kid antics to share, or engagement story to tell around the bonfire like everyone else did when we finished off the weekend under the full moon and dark canopy of massive trees. But, back in 1997, when we were living in that crappy house on N. Congress Street I got my first dose of life not going as you expected, and that’s just the way it is. You don’t ask “why me?”, you ask “now what?”
Now what? Well, we have all decided that we will not wait another twenty years to get together again. So, in two years, we plan to do this again. I cannot wait (maybe I’ll have an engagement story to tell by then. You never know!)!
What I do know is that spending time with this amazing group of people was so easy. So fun, and oddly comforting. As well as something truly special. I am very aware of the luck I have for being planted on the third floor of Gam that year when I was 19 years old. How it brought me to them, and them to me. And for that I will always be grateful.
(click the photos below to enlarge and read captions)