Homage to Thomas Wolfe

Who are these people? Are they cool, hard-partying college students, just coming around from sleeping off a TGIF bender?


No! They are your intrepid correspondent and her former roomie after one day at their 30-year college reunion – we’d wandered around in the rain, had some pizza and WATER, and because we’re energy conscious (and the weather was crappy) the hotel room was cold! So what was the solution? Go out and party, dance our butts off ‘til the sweat poured off us as was our wont in the years we reminisced about?

No again! We decided the best solution was to snuggle up in our pillow-filled hotel room beds! Looks more like a sick room, doesn’t it? Poor lighting, box of tissues and the obligatory Gideon’s Bible on the table.

Can these be the two wild women who hosted late-night dance parties, bopped in and out of our favorite haunts on “M” Street and Westcott into the wee hours, and trekked up and down the hills (on the traction-aiding cobblestoned streets) through endless snowstorms? The ones whose raucous laughter could be heard clear across the lounge on coffee house nights, or barely stifled in the stacks at the library? What happened??

I’ll tell you what happened – 30 years of jobs, marriage, kids, laundry, cooking, PTA meetings … in other words, Life!

No, we haven’t totally lost it – as a matter of fact, I shook my (ever-so-slightly expanded) booty for 3 hours straight the other night at a  Michael Franti and Spearhead concert, and I know Suzini has the energy and drive of 3 women. But for a little while that first night, we were a bit weary, maybe more emotionally than anything else.

Because of the aforementioned kids, etc., we hadn’t attended any of the earlier reunions, and the fundamental message to me upon this foray back to Syracuse was a phrase coined by Thomas Wolfe: You Can’t Go Home Again. While some parts of campus look the same, and strolling across the quad and through the halls brought tears of nostalgic recognition to our eyes, other areas made us stand and look around, saying, “Where the heck are we??”

Buildings torn down, empty fields filled with new structures, hulking parking garages in place of the old kitschy shops. On the forestry campus (my own alma mater) my favorite black tupelo trees – dazzling scarlet in autumn – ripped out and the statue of Lincoln on horseback moved to make room for an access road to the dome that looms over what was once open and leafy. (The majestic old Archbold Stadium was torn down in 1979, and Carrier Dome built, hoping to attract talent for a rejuvenated football team – according to my sons, this never happened. I guess they’re right – this past school year, SU was the lowest ranking Big East football team. At least the basketball team still has what it takes.)

I am glad I went, though. It was great to reconnect and trade stories with some college friends and walk the streets of our old neighborhood, which is still beautiful, our grand old house looking even nicer with a new coat of paint.

Clarendon House

We even got to walk around inside the house, invited in by the current student resident when we knocked on the door to ask if it would be OK to stand on the porch for a photo. We were blown away, though, by the effects of inflation – when Suz and I lived on the ground floor with another roommate (four other friends lived upstairs), we each paid $83.33 a month for rent. Even at that, we still had to scrimp toward the end of the month, sometimes subsisting on oatmeal and baked potatoes, with the odd jar of pickled herring or a chocolate cake thrown in to keep our morale up. Imagine our surprise to find out that each roommate (now 4 on the bottom floor – the former dining room is walled off to make a cramped bedroom) pays $450 per month – highway robbery!

Suffice it to say that when last we walked those hallowed halls and bosky lanes, we had no idea what lay ahead of us. We were green ourselves, blissful in our ignorance and lack of responsibilities, exuberant over the bountiful range of possibilities life offered us. I can’t say I’m disappointed, though. Life has been good to me. It’s just a little different, a little more … real … than the fairy tale you picture for yourself when you’re standing on the brink. And maybe that’s a good thing.


About rangermoi

I'm a former park ranger and teacher, mother of two no-longer-teenage sons, avid cook and reader and the Official Family Memory. I thought I'd better get some of those remembrances down before they all leak out of my senior-moment-affected brain!
This entry was posted in Nostalgia, School. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Homage to Thomas Wolfe

  1. Tara says:

    That’s Suzini? Don’t recognize her, but then again, the picture was pretty small.

    I remember paying $300 a month wherever I lived in San Diego. Those were the good old days. Wish I was paying that now!!

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