It was a gorgeous, sunny day when Dave and I drove down Highway 101 toward Pomona College in Claremont for our 30th class reunion. On the way, we stopped to have a long, leisurely lunch with our friend Fred in San Luis Obispo and avoided traffic by reaching L.A. long after rush hour. We stayed at Hotel Claremont & Tennis Club, which is actually just a motel right off the San Bernardino freeway with some tennis courts. The next morning we had what they call continental breakfast on paper plates in the “clubhouse,” where the water dispenser was broken, and the coffee was awful and only tepid, but Maria made us some Belgian waffles and the bananas were too green for Dave but perfect for me.
We grabbed some real coffee at 42nd St. Bagels in the Village, which is the tiny downtown area of Claremont, before arriving on campus. But walking up to Seaver House to register, I realized that I probably should have opted for iced coffee because the temperature was climbing rapidly. We received our blue bags with the Pomona symbol proudly displayed on the side, and inside was a booklet outlining the weekend’s events and a three-page list of all the Pomona alum who had died in the last few years. Luckily I saw no names from the class of ’84. Despite that somewhat depressing note, we ventured onto campus, eager to begin reunion festivities.
The first thing on my list was to visit the Challah for Hunger table at the student union. One of my former first graders, Rachel Hamburg, had started this Friday tradition of selling challah and donating the proceeds to organizations that feed the hungry back when she was at Pomona, and even though she has since graduated, I wanted to support her efforts. And, hey, the challah was delicious! We made a stop at each of my dorm rooms (outside only—I didn’t disturb their current residents) and walked the campus, surveying the many changes that had occurred even just since our 25th reunion. We stopped by the new Student Life office (which I realize sounds like a student center but is actually the school newspaper) to get the latest issue, but it was all closed up. Luckily, a friendly student offered us his copy that Dave noticed tucked under his arm. Then we stopped by the Senior Art Show where a very talkative woman from the class of ’64 showed me a quilt she’d made and brought with her. (I guess she thought it was that kind of senior art show…) Dave got to visit with the prof that took a group of students to Florence, which reminds me that I still regret not studying abroad when I had the chance….
The first official reunion function we attended was the Mexican buffet, where we saw Gina, who had made the trip from New York; Ken and his husband Theo, all the way from Amsterdam!; and Carol, who had flown in from Piedmont which of course is about twenty minutes away from Berkeley, but we never see each other. As we ate dessert, Richard and Patty found us, having flown in from New Jersey. I immediately made Richard do that amazing trick he does with his lips. Because that’s what you do at reunions.The English department was co-hosting a wine and cheese gathering at Crookshank Hall where I had spent many hours in lit classes, so I dragged my history major husband and bio major friend along with me, since their departments weren’t doing anything. It was a pretty small crowd and none of my former teachers was there, but I spotted Mac Barnett, class of ’04 and noted children’s author! I chatted with him a bit and enjoyed some yummy fruit tarts. And I talked with Jimmy, Suzy, Dayna, and even the prof I didn’t know.
Since we had a few hours until the next event, we hung out in the courtyard outside the student union, where Dave befriended Bob, class of ’54. Bob had known Dave’s dad and uncle Noel (classes of ’51 and ’54) and talked about the old days until it was time to head over to Frary Dining Hall for the wine tasting. Of course there was food there too, and I realized that what with the challah, the cookies at the art show, the Mexican buffet, and the wine and cheese from the English Department tea, this was the fifth time we’d been presented with food since our clubhouse waffles, and we hadn’t even had dinner yet! All the wineries represented there belonged to Pomona grads and poured wine freely. More friends, lots of wine, tiny quiches, and chocolate-covered strawberries—it really doesn’t get better than that!
Except it did. The slide show highlighting music and school photos from the last seventy-five years played on either end of the gym while we ate our dinner. Each class cheered louder than the last when its year was represented. We drank more wine. (And I definitely ate more than one macaroon.) Then we went to a party in the basement of the student union where there was more wine and beer and lots of chips and cookies. In case we hadn’t gotten enough to eat….
Saturday was spent mostly on Marston Quad eating even more and seeing even more classmates. Brian wore a shirt that Patty and I insisted was green and Brian just as vehemently insisted was yellow. Or maybe it was the other way around….I teased Robin about her title as the “appliance queen” junior year. (She had a microwave, hot curlers, and a food dehydrator in her dorm room!) Ross and Dennis arrived between meals. And Susie and Jim and Charna and Grant and Jon and Bill and Julie and Karen and Sue and Paul and lots of others showed up too.
The parade of classes began with the golf carts carrying the eldest alum, followed by increasingly younger folks, all of us displaying our class banners, some classes prouder than others of their chosen mottoes. Because we were the class of 1984, we were always under an Orwellian shadow and had a pretty lame banner that proclaims us to be “Class with a Vision.” As each class passed, the younger classes waved and cheered them on, except of course for the class of 2009 because there was nobody left to clap for them. As everyone else paraded into Big Bridges Auditorium to listen to the inevitable pitch for the alumni fund, our bunch wandered back to our tented table on the quad. We already gave, and it’s the same spiel every five years, so we figured we’d heard it already. The only really fun time was our 25th, when Don and Brian dressed up as a horse and our class all wore glow sticks.
The temperature was up in the 90s, so when Patty and I spied someone dumping a huge container of melting ice out on the lawn, we immediately plopped our feet in the icy puddles for relief. And because most of the children of alum had already abandoned the bouncy house, Patty, Sue, and I decided it was our turn. We bounced for awhile and even went down the slide. But Patty and Sue got out before it started losing air and imploding. I did not. As the walls of the castle came down around me, Sue and Patty dragged me out. It was not a graceful dismount.
Chips, salsa, guac, and many kinds of beer awaited us at the Wash during cocktail hour. The Wash is an amphitheater that used to be sort of dilapidated back in the day, and it was the place to be every Friday afternoon where the kegs of cheap beer flowed. Now it has a nice lawn area and a fence around it, and the beers they served were premium beers. Sometimes change is good.
The word of the day was wenis, which nobody else there knew. (It’s the skin on your elbow. Go ahead—look it up.) I had learned it from my daughter, who said it was a big joke in elementary school, because pretty much any word that rhymes with penis is going to be funny in elementary school. Or to people celebrating their 30th year reunion…
For the final dinner, alum were scattered throughout the campus, each class eating with their own classmates, so it was rather a small grouping that ate dinner together that night. We were entertained by the Blue & White, a female a capella group who did a fun medley of California-themed songs among other pieces. Dave even bought one of their CDs. Our table definitely had the most fun. At one point I sort of realized that I was the only female seated among gay and bisexual men—there wasn’t a single straight person at our table. There was one almost tense moment when we got to reminiscing, and I referred to the two-week stint when Ross and I were a couple. Which apparently was news to his husband, even though he and Ross have been together probably twenty years. I think Ross still has the upper hand though. Four years into their relationship, Dennis accidentally referred to his ex-wife. I guess it had slipped his mind…
I think my favorite moment came when we were saying our goodbyes. One of my former classmates, who was someone I knew to say hi to but didn’t know really well when we were in college, told me I was a lovely person with great sincerity and then said that he wished we’d known each other better when we were at school. I said, “It’s never too late!” And I mean it. I loved Pomona and a lot of people I knew then. But there are still alum that I’m getting to know thirty years later. Which is pretty cool, I think.
And I hope you and Theo were serious when you said we could stay with you in Amsterdam, Ken, because we might just take you up on it!
*Pomona’s mascot is the sagehen. I know it’s silly, but that’s why when alum run into each other, they say “chirp.”