Saturday, April 9, 2011

On sisterhood, sucking, and sushi...

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to reunite with my Chi Omega sorority sisters back "home" at Rollins College in beautiful, sunny Winter Park, Florida.  A gaggle of seven of us who were as close as sisters could ever be, back in college, shared two rooms in the old hotel where everyone used to stay "back in the day", as they say.  Of our seven, some of us had not seen each other in nineteen years, since we graduated, so this reunion was a huge deal for us.  For months before the reunion we regularly bombarded a facebook message board with reminiscences, questions, updates, hopes, and hilarity.  It promised to be quite a weekend!

I will freely admit to being the world's worst traveler.  I am angst-ridden over what to pack.  Take a peek inside my head as I pack:  "Will I have the right shoes?  What if it is too hot for jeans?  Are these really the right jeans?  Which skirt is the right kind for this occasion?  How casual is too casual?  What did we decide we would be doing, again?  If we add to the agenda, will I have the right stuff?  Do I have medicine to treat any possible ailment?  Where is Mortimer, my teddy bear?  What about that extra pillow and the sleep mask?  You, know you have trouble sleeping; make sure you have everything you need to help you sleep!  Did you pack your toothbrush?  Ohmigod!  They said they wanted to lay out by the pool!  Do you even still own a bathing suit?  Wherethehell would that be?  Does it fit?  You burn when you even think about the sun, you know!  Pack sunscreen!  Wheretherehell is the sunscreen!  What am I forgetting?  Who am I sharing a bed with?  What if I snore and make everyone miserable?  I haven't seen them in nineteen years...This could all go horribly, horribly wrong...Oh, crap!  Is it really Two o'clock in the morning?  I have to be up at 5:30!!!  Must sleep soon!!!  Crap!  I need my toothbrush in the morning!  I need Mortimer and the sleep mask tonight to sleep!  What if I forget them in the morning?  Why did I agree to go to this?  I should just stay home!!!  I should never leave the house!...'monkey, monkey, underpants...'..."  You see what I mean?  To quote Lorelai Gilmore, "It's a big bag of crazy in there!"  So I end up packing half of everything I own.  I'm pretty sure I had seventeen pairs of panties for a five day trip!  Fortunately, Mortimer did make it.  I would have had to come back for him, if he hadn't.  He never misses a trip!  Luckily I was driving, so eventually Mortimer and I buckled up into a fully-loaded Sprite, put the top down, slathered on the sunscreen, and hit the road for Rollins!
Mortimer is ready to roll!

Sunburned and slap-happy from Orlando traffic, I arrived ready for a shower, a little down time to catch up, and a cocktail only to find that we had added a party to the agenda and we were already late!  Classic!  It was as if no time had passed at all, and I rushed to get ready. I was frantic, excited, and loving every minute of the madness! Through the giggling and gabbing I got ready and we headed out to the first of many reunion events that would mark that marvelous weekend. 

The campus of Rollins College has always been beautiful, but much has been done to upgrade and update it in the last nineteen years.  We were all a bit awestruck by that which we took for granted when we were living on campus every day.  The weather was perfect!  Cool enough to wear sleeves or jeans at night without being too warm, and warm enough to wear a sundress.  Who could ask for more?  The girls who flew in from the lands still snow-bound were in Heaven!  It gave great opportunities for facebook posting to all of their jealous friends back home.  One such post by a sister prompted a response from her colleague of, "Suck it, Sager!" She shared this with us as we lay out by the pool on Sunday afternoon (I was in the shade, thank you.) to our absolute delight!  This prompted us to immediately adopt the expression as our own!  People don't seem to get it when I use it here at home.  I guess it's because they don't know who Sager is, but I do, and that is all that matters.  Perhaps I need to say, "Suck it, Sister!"  That works, but loses something in translation.

The view from my chair poolside!
Grateful for the technology that allowed my to photograph almost every event and upload it to facebook as it was happening, I was quickly established as the dorky documentarian.  There were sisters who were unable to be with us, and I wanted them to feel like they were a part of things.  I also wanted us to have every hilarious moment preserved for posterity.  Among other places, we visited our favorite bars, the Saturday morning farmers market, our favorite restaurant (twice), a new favorite frozen yogurt store (more times than I can count), the college bookstore far too many times, and the sorority house.  We all lived in the sorority house in various combinations, so that visit was one of the most surreal.  The members hosted an open house, and we were able to see how beautifully it has been updated, see some of our old rooms, our composite photos still on the walls, and chill in the chapter room for a while.  It was hard to grasp the concept that other people were having similar experiences to ours because we had built this up so much for ourselves.  It was all about us after all.  The idea that other people were feeling the same way was strangely disconcerting.

We Seven Sisters outside the Chi Omega house.

We ate, we drank, we shopped, we tried on outfit after outfit, we looked at old photos, we laughed, we cried, we sang, we rediscovered each other and that which brought us together in the first place.  As the time came for each of us to leave, we felt holes in the group of sisters that was left.  One of my favorite moments was when the waitress brought us The Big Boat of sushi at Fuji Sushi, but one of our sisters had already gone home, and we were Six.  I was so excited to eat sushi.  My sweetheart is allergic to seafood, so we don't go out for sushi, and I forget how much I like it.  When I do go out for it with friends, I am always challenged to remember which kinds are my favorite.  I have never before been at a table that has had a boat of sushi!  I was stunned!  And then we ate every bite!  It was brilliant!  I was loving it, but we were missing our sister all at the same time. 

The Big Boat!

After dinner and another trip to the frozen yogurt store, two more sisters dropped off and then we were Four.  We consolidated to one room.  One lonely room.  Later that night Sister Number Four had to drive home for work the next morning, and then we were Three.  My bed was too big that night.  Our conversation was quieter, longer, more intense.  Wonderful, but we missed our sisters.  The next morning we woke to pouring rain in Winter Park.  It was as if Rollins was crying along with us as the band was breaking up.  The three of us spent a different kind of day than the others.  Lazier, more laid back, just talking and eating and reflecting.  That night we finally made it into the hotel's Red Fox Lounge to see the infamous Mark and Lorna lounge act that we had been talking about the entire time we were in town.  We kept sitting outside the lounge by the pool in the evenings, and never made it in until that night.  Oh, how we wished we had done it when we were all together.  It turned out that Lorna had the night off, and we took turns singing with Mark!  Then we all sang with him together!  I couldn't post the pictures for our absent sisters fast enough!  We were having such fun, but oh, how we wished they were there!  Eventually we realized it was time to call it a night.  The next morning I drove my last two sisters to the airport, and then there was One.

We each came to this reunion with a different experiences and expectations.  Of our seven, we have moms, educators, therapists, restaurateurs, and award-winners. We are single, married, divorced, and at many different places in our lives.  We have each experienced loss, pain, joy,, and we each wear it differently.  I was amazed to see that each of my sisters is more beautiful now than she was when we were in school.  As we either live or approach our forties, the grace, elegance, confidence, appreciation, charm, humor, humility, and love of life that has taken up residence in each of my sisters is beautiful.  We came together to have fun, fellowship, and to offer support to those who we believed were in need of it most right now.  What we found was that we were all in need of all of those things.  We found that we all needed to laugh, we all needed to share, we all needed validation, and we all needed the support of the sisters we loved so much.  It was absolutely humbling to discover that the bonds we formed twenty-ish years ago are still so strong today.  People often talk about those friends you don't see for a long time and then you get together and it is like no time has passed at all.  We discovered that we are absolutely those friends.  We also discovered that we don't want to be those friends anymore.  We want to make a concerted effort to reunite regularly.  It felt too good to be together, to recharge for our real lives, to wait another nineteen years.  We are already making plans to play again, and the facebook bulletin board is buzzing!

We Seven at our favorite restaurant, Dexter's.