In contrast with the recent article about Reunions awkwardness (Perspective, May 13), I just returned from my 30th reunion, loved it, and felt moved to provide another perspective on the annual migration.
At Princeton, I found the freshman semester fairly daunting, feeling somewhat isolated. I was a shy little public-school mouse from New Jersey, and it all seemed so intimidating. By spring I had discovered wonderful friends and the incredible array of activities and opportunities available in the University community. In the same way, I have found more and more levels and depth to the Reunions experience as years go by.
My husband, who is an incredibly good sport, has attended Reunions with me from the 10th on (we were only just engaged at the 10th – and he still went through with the wedding after being dragged through the bewildering experience of costumes, P-rade, etc!). We make it a point to try to get to at least one or two lectures or other campus activities. For some reason, although I was an English major, I am drawn especially to physics lectures and the like. Last year we went to the observatory for a night viewing one of the evenings. One year a classmate gave a fascinating talk about his experiences on the space shuttle. This year we saw Our Town at Theatre Intime, which was amazing – the acting was wonderful, it was thoughtfully directed, and the depth of understanding and range of emotions shown by the kids (OK, they are kids to me!) was very humbling and brought me to tears.
Of course we did the P-rade, which I also enjoy more each year (the outfits do get better as you grow up!) and I appreciate the sense of “history going past” even more now.
In addition to scheduled activities, we always try to make time for just soaking up the atmosphere as well as reminiscing (OK, that’s just me reminiscing, but my husband has heard these stories so often he probably feels he lived through them, too – have I mentioned what a good sport he is?). This year we walked through the new Lewis Library (very cool) as well as the sculpture in front of it; got lost in the Frist Center looking for tickets (but what a neat place and such a wonderful community center for the students, I was very impressed – plus there was a tiger exhibit there we enjoyed); had to visit my dinosaur buddy in Guyot Hall (many memories of late-night talks with this guy); waded in Woody Woo fountain after the P-rade (with lots of families and kids in swim goggles); heard some lovely music in the Chapel; listened to an arch sing; and visited the building with a high ledge where I once posed for a photo as a gargoyle as part of the Mime Company, then froze when it came time to go down the ladder and instead convinced a French professor to let me in his leaded-glass window at his desk. My husband even swam in the alumni swim meet to represent my class (he is a Masters swimmer).
I was thrilled to find out that several friends I did not think were attending had actually been able to make it, and was able to march with them in the P-rade and also hang out at the dinner, fireworks, and the party with them and catch up on their lives. Everyone looks fantastic to me, and it is terrific to hear about each one’s families, jobs, and activities. Seeing good friends again is always a joy. You’re running a major corporation? A small struggling startup company? You’ve been elected an honorary village elder in a tiny country with a big heart? You’re raising incredible children? Talented pets? I’m proud of you all! You say you’ve gotten divorced? Good, you deserve better! Married? The best of love and luck to you! It’s all good. What’s better than that we are here together again? What is better than true friends?
As far as those classmates I knew only slightly, or never met at all in the past, we have enjoyed getting to know you, too. My husband probably knows as many people in the class now as I ever did! There were even some alums from younger classes who spent time talking to us (humoring the old fogies or simply being genuinely nice, it still means a lot).
You hear some talk in PAW and other media with alums grousing about change: new buildings, new policies, new people. I love it all – after all, the immense and unique charm of this place is the spectacular combination of tradition and creativity. This juxtaposition has been the hallmark of the University over the years, and it continues. Part of what makes me feel so good in returning is that it’s all still here: The earthquake tracker in Guyot Hall is now a computer screen instead of a needle tracing on a roll of paper, but someone is still watching, tracking, keeping an eye on the earth. There are still creative minds studying the heavens, debating public policy, poring over great books and writing greater ones, putting their hearts on the stage, excelling in sports, and growing up together.
And the kids, the wonderful kids! Sorry, I know you are young men and women. I am heartened to see all the senior faces each year, full of promise, courage, and dreams. Don’t be afraid to come back and visit this place. It changes, it grows, it gets better all the time, and so will you. I remember a quote about getting an education at Princeton that likened it to trying to get a drink from a fire hose. I think it’s more like Niagara Falls now! And you are all shining drops in that rainbow mist.
Yeah, I had a great time at Reunions.
Amy Grimm ’79 is a job planner at Berryville Graphics, a book printing plant in Virginia. She enjoys riding her horse, competing with her pug dogs in agility events, spending time with her husband Kevin Yungk, and ignoring housework.