owlmoose: (BMC - cloisters)
KJ ([personal profile] owlmoose) wrote2014-01-27 04:46 pm

Bright College Days: January Blogging Meme

[personal profile] auronlu asked for a school memory. Although she said it didn't have to be a memory of our our shared alma mater, Bryn Mawr College, of course it will be. I have some good memories of high school and before, and from grad school, too, but nothing has had such a formative effect on who I am and whom I will be than my years at Bryn Mawr, and the women I met there. Of course, to then sort through everything memorable that happened during those four years and choose a single moment is nigh-on impossible. But here's one that came to mind right away, because it's probably first time I remember having a crystal realization that I was in the right place, and had surrounded myself with the right people.

So, step with me into the Wayback Machine to March 5th of frosh year, my 19th birthday, the day before Spring Break. It was a weeknight, unseasonably warm for early March, and everyone was busy running around trying to wrap up their schoolwork and pack to get out of town, so I had no expectation of any real kind of celebration. But still, a couple of hours after dinner, a couple of friends -- I don't remember exactly whom -- dropped by my room with a blindfold. Fortunately, I had good, trustworthy friends, so I let them lead me blind out of the dorm and across campus to the Campus Center. There, on the steps, I was met by a most surprising sight: a whole bunch of our friend group, with lit lanterns*, and a pint of Ben & Jerry's (New York Super Fudge Chunk, if I recall) festooned with candles. They sang Happy Birthday, swinging the lanterns in unison (more or less :) ), and then we had an ice cream feast, right there on the Campus Center steps.

It was such a little thing in so many ways, and yet it sticks with me, as one of my favorite birthday memories as well as school memories. Because I felt, in that moment, like I belonged. That I had found a community of friends, connected to the much larger community of Bryn Mawrters. That, for the first time ever in my life really, I had found people who would go to some trouble to make me feel special and loved. Some of the women who were on the steps that night continue to be among the most important people in my world, and I can't be more glad of it.

*Every Bryn Mawr undergraduate is given a lantern during her first semester. (See a photo of [livejournal.com profile] madlori's lantern, and super awesome tattoo based on it, here.) The color is based on your class, and mine, like Lori's, is green. There are various traditional events at which we light our lanterns and sing songs, and leaders called songsmistresses move them up and down to keep time, which is called swinging. If this all seems weird and/or arcane to you, I understand. :) But it was meaningful to me.
vieralynn: (Default)

[personal profile] vieralynn 2014-01-28 01:04 am (UTC)(link)
Awesome story. :)

Madlori's lantern is decorated with an owl. Is every Bryn Mawr lantern an owl lantern? As in, each student carries the light of the owls of wisdom?! That is so cool.

If color=class, I assume you mean incoming class year, so every freshmen admitted to Bryn Mawr this current academic has the color associated with incoming class of academic year 2013-2014? (my confusion stems from the fact that universities often associate color with which college you are admitted to as a student or hired on as faculty).
vieralynn: (Default)

[personal profile] vieralynn 2014-01-28 01:37 am (UTC)(link)
Owls + Athena + Lanterns! Bryn Mawr is so cool! :D
phdfan: (Default)

[personal profile] phdfan 2014-01-28 02:15 am (UTC)(link)
Wow, that is so ridiculously awesome, and yes- a little arcane! It almost sounds like you went to Hogwarts!
auronlu: (Default)

[personal profile] auronlu 2014-01-28 07:30 pm (UTC)(link)
And it was precisely this icon that made me recognize you as a Mawrtyr.

(Of course, it's the lyrics to a Bryn Mawr song, but it fits Hermione SO WELL.)

That T-shirt is perfect. YES, BRYN MAWR IS BASICALLY AN ALL-WOMEN HOUSE RAVENCLAW.
Edited 2014-01-28 20:27 (UTC)
wordweaverlynn: (Default)

[personal profile] wordweaverlynn 2014-01-28 04:44 am (UTC)(link)
I do love Bryn Mawr. I'm not an alum, but I lived in and near the town for a number of years, and it's one of my favorite places ever.
pete_thomas: (Default)

[personal profile] pete_thomas 2014-01-28 03:51 pm (UTC)(link)
The story is really touching. I could definitely see why that would be one of your better birthday memories.

The history and heritage of your college really piqued my interest though, so I did a little digging. You'll often hear me say this a lot, but I don't regret a lot of things in my life, but one of my biggest was not investigating my colleges a little better. I am a very family oriented person, so something like the culture that is ingrained within Bryn Mawr sounds like something that would have suited me (well, the male/co-ed representation of it, anyway).

I went to Robert Morris, myself, and while I learned a lot, and the experiences were there, they were few and far between. I'm sure a number of other factors played into that, but on the whole, I don't think there's a really strong family based community like that. It's truly remarkable.
pete_thomas: (Default)

[personal profile] pete_thomas 2014-01-29 02:52 pm (UTC)(link)
I think you nailed it - not that I'm trying to push any blame on anyone - but I didn't have that support. Neither my mom or my dad went to college, our high school was a miserable excuse for an education system (seriously, look up Sto-Rox High School news reports; everything you see now was just coming to fruition about when I graduated), and the family that did continue on (two uncles) I was never close with, so they really didn't have an opportunity to reach out.

Again, I certainly could have been more adamant about pursuing my own resources, but what's done is done. I'm glad you were able to achieve such a positive experience from it.
auronlu: (Default)

[personal profile] auronlu 2014-01-28 07:39 pm (UTC)(link)
OH THERE IS MY NOSTALGIA FOR THE DAY

What a lovely memory, and it puts me right back on campus, with the beautiful row of old maples and oaks (?) across from the campus center steps, and the lawn where so many of my kites met their glorious end.

It was amazing to be in a place in real space and time where we felt so much a part of a community of souls, and could trust our friends that much. But we could.

My best birthday was a tea party on Pembroke's lawn for my 21st birthday, since I thought it would be only poetic for me to be drinking tea and not alcohol to mark the occasion.

However, that wasn't my best birthday present. One of my hall group was a dancer. For a gift, she told me to pick out any musical piece and any one outfit of hers, and she'd dance for me. We went up to the studio high above Pembroke arch, and she danced the entire soundtrack of Legend in a Deanna Troi blue dress of which I was foolishly enamored. Sometimes employing candles. Or soap bubbles. Our friends sat around on cushions and watched the performance with me.

I will never, ever have a birthday present that comes close to that.

Bryn Mawr is Hogwarts. I have no doubt that its current inhabitants are continuing to make magic.

(My lantern, for the record, was red.)
lassarina: I'm not coming out until the stupid people have gone away.  ....I can wait all day. (Default)

[personal profile] lassarina 2014-01-30 02:40 am (UTC)(link)
What a lovely memory. I never looked at BMC because after four years at an all-girls Catholic high school, an all-women college was not even a little bit on my radar, but I think I might have loved it there. (Then again, Northwestern was very good to me in so many ways, and I don't regret it at all.)