October 7, 2016

Bye Bye Walla Walla

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(This is the final post in a series about a 40th college reunion
Walla Walla Begin Again
Doin’ Our Stuff Again
Memories and Menus)

When last we met I was curled up in fetal position in Mem after getting away from the raucous music at the all class reunion picnic on Ankeny Field.  When the band packed up, I crept out and joined Bruce and Helen who were watching the tennis in the (new to me) courts jutting out onto Ankeny.  A bit much, I thought, but then I don’t play tennis and I was cranky from the picnic that I didn’t pay for and shouldn’t have crashed and it served me right if the band was too loud.

Picnic on Ankeny Field

Picnic on Ankeny Field

The next event that interested me was the choice of faculty open houses.  The English department was not represented so I chose to go to Rhetoric Studies as the closest I was going to get to English literature.  Bruce and Helen and I found our way to the home of Dr. Heather Hayes who had laid out a spread from Olive, the deli on Main St. and I was able to finish my lunch.

Dr. Hayes was fun, energetic and passionate about her field.  She is the kind of intellect I like being around: one that doesn’t let you feel inferior for not knowing as much as she does.  It’s how I learn.  I learned to play Scrabble by playing repeatedly with someone who won every time and never once treated me like I wasn’t a valuable player.

In the process of a lively discussion I learned to pronounce synecdoche , a word that stumps me every time I try to say it.  I got the best explanation I have ever gotten for what exactly a meme is.  I learned the difference between rhetoric and oration and between literary and rhetorical analysis.  I don’t mean to be ungenerous but I’m not going to be more specific about any of the above.

Back at home, I took a nap.  When I wandered out to the kitchen, John was leaning against the sink.

“She finally shows up,” he said.

“90 per cent of life is showing up,” I said.

I opened the door to the liquor cupboard and pulled out the Jameson that Debi keeps on hand for a few of us.

“And the rest is being prepared.”

(Deb, do you still have that bottle of Jameson?” I emailed her last week.

“I have two bottles,” she wrote back.  “Will that be enough?”)

Jim found me a small funnel and I decanted whiskey into a hip flask, which just fit in my purse.

Marcus Whitman Hotel Walla Walla, Washington The Blue Mountains

Marcus Whitman Hotel
Walla Walla, Washington
The Blue Mountains

Our class reunion dinner was at the home of a Whitman graduate.  Usually the dinners are held at the Marcus Whitman, the grand old hotel of Walla Walla (I’m so glad to get a reference to this icon into a post.  I was wondering how it would happen.) As nice as the hotel is, the dinner was so much more intimate at a home. A very large old home of which Walla Walla has a glorious supply.
The buffet was good, especially the shrimp and the tiramisu—though not at the same time.

I poured some of my Jameson into a wine glass and sipped along with all the wine drinkers.  A few people in the know held out their glasses and whispered to me, “Hit me!”

Jim, my fellow introvert, and I had a pact that we would leave at a mutually agreeable time, when both of us had had enough noisy socializing.  We left together and I was asleep when everyone else came home.

John had some kind of pact with the devil that is Alaska Airlines; he was leaving from Portland even though he flew into Seattle. I had a ride home with my Seattle neighbor Bill who was in town to visit his son Christoph. When they arrived to fetch me, I introduced them to the bunch of us congregated at Debi and Jim’s house.

Worlds collide: My neighbor in Seattle in the living room of my 40 years ago roommate at Whitman College.  I am so momentarily stunned that I falter halfway through the introductions. Connecting the two worlds is Christoph, the sophomore at Whitman who is exchanging contact info with Debi who is always good for a home-cooked meal (cooked by James but stay in my flow.)  It is a precious moment in what has felt like a precious weekend.

“I was spinning out of control a few days ago,” I said to John on the ride over.  It was apropos of nothing.  I guess I thought he was following my unspoken thoughts.

“For any particular reason?” he asked “Or just something to do?”

“Very funny.  No, I was excited about the weekend.”

The weekend itself had felt like being in a spin cycle.  There was so much to do and so many people to be with.  There was Mary-Ellis who I don’t see often enough and with whom I always have conversations that make me feel acknowledged, understood and loved.  There was John who I had seen once in the past 30 years.  There was Bruce, also only seen once, and Helen who I had never met.  There were the two professors I met. There was the gorgeous campus.  There were all the supernumeraries who made up the backdrop and set for the weekend.  There was the lack of sleep.  There were the periods of regression and self-doubt that I haven’t mentioned in these blog posts because quite frankly I don’t want to go there, other than to say they came up in the odd moments. Put it all together and it felt like a dream, like something that didn’t quite happen.

I wonder what our 50th year reunion will be like.  I wonder if we’ll get golf carts for the parade of classes.




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