Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Vassar Reunion

Today Bea received a reminder that her 75th Vassar reunion will take place in June. Five years ago, she attended her 70th …

"Poughkeepsie, yeah!" Bea exclaims as we reach the familiar Taconic exit. I maneuver our Volvo through the maze of new highways, past The Dutch, and up the hill to Alumnae House. Ten members of the Class of 1932 have returned, with canes, walkers or in wheelchairs. Bea admires a most unusual plastic cane, filled with alternating layers of rose petals and magenta flowers. She listens to a speech by President Fergusson with rapt attention. "You have lived well through years of depression and Prohibition and know how things should be done …"

Indeed, these are unusual women, and my mother is one of them.

Saturday, I take Bea to the new art gallery which instantly becomes her favorite place on campus. We borrow a wheelchair to get over to the golf carts, lined up outside the chapel for the parade, the reunion highlight. Above our heads floats the yellow banner: "Class of 1932. We're still here."

1932 leads the parade to the field house while a brass band plays. Yellow balloons bob. People cheer. Waving to the crowd is quite a kick for the ten little old ladies, all dressed in yellow, their class color.

Emotion fills the field house as reunion classes march in, one after the other, singing "Salve." There is something powerful about being connected to all these strong women and now men. Vassar meant so much to Bea that I am glad I made the effort to get her here.

Later there’s a memorial service. Bea’s roommates are only present in spirit. Kitty is ill with Alzheimer’s. Nancy has passed away. Miggits has not been able to leave her assisted living facility.

We take a bus tour of the campus, but Bea is tired. I know that she will never return. "Goodbye to pleasant memories," my mother says softly as she leaves Vassar Sunday morning … forever.

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