In July 2000, 10 former co-eds converged on the Michigan League. Yikes! Old friends were nearly unrecognizable: we'd grown old. A sobering thought; yet within seconds 35-years-worth of gray hair and wrinkles, dissolved into the familiar grins of a gang of freshmen who'd first come together in the fall of 1965.
That year the Honors program offered rooms to women in Blagdon Hall, part of the Mary Markley residences, which had recently been converted from an all-male to a co-ed dorm. Back then, our participation in this "new" kind living experience, limited to sharing some lounge and eating facilities, set us apart and brought us together. The University tagged us as clever; we thought of ourselves as quite grown up. We'd chosen to try something different.
Pushing laundry carts loaded with the essentials for success in college
-- manual typewriters were prized possessions in that long-ago time
-- we met, found ourselves in the same classes, and joined together
for meals. Before long we were sharing notes, ideas and all-nighters.
We accumulated record numbers of late minutes (remember those?) but
often favored each other's company, The Man From Uncle
and playing bridge over Friday night parties and dates. Somewhere in
the midst of that freshman year someone, probably waiting for the last
straggler to dinner, dubbed us the Bludgeon Battalion. As upperclassmen,
the group hung together, some as apartment mates, all loyal to traditions
we'd developed in the dorm, including a holiday -- Christmas in January
(reflecting the joys of the trimester system that eliminated seasonal
celebrations in favor of exams before break).
We graduated; we moved on; then, at a slightly delayed 30th reunion, we met again in the summer of Y2K. We rediscovered the campus, now enhanced by a gorgeous new chemistry building (no tears for Waterman Gym in this crowd), and found crossing Washtenaw still the same challenge as always, since the new footbridge was closed for resurfacing during our visit. We found carpeting, but the same cinderblock walls, at Blagdon, along with much upgraded dining halls (although the food lines themselves looked all too familiar, and today's flatware seems hardly worth stealing). We stepped on the bronze M on the Diag fearlessly. We visited favorite places -- Angell Hall, the Art Museum, the Law School, an apartment or two, even the Canoe Livery. In just a day we passed through the same sensations of being lost, getting oriented and feeling, finally, at home, that accompanied our first experiences of this campus. We fit, we belonged. Yet reminders of how we'd changed since 1969 were everywhere -- in the faces of busy students who paused to snap group photos for us, the exhausting distances we had to cover visiting old haunts, and our confusion as we tried to recall details our memories had garbled. (Where was the ROTC building anyway?) Clearly we weren't co-eds anymore.