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 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.