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Life Notes: A College Reunion
A reckoning and a sweet remembrance of the FOAs (Friends of Amy)
By Sally Friedman

The first shock was the gray in Andrea’s hair. Just a few strands, to be sure, but there they were. The last time I’d seen Andrea, she was a college senior, and totally brunette.

Mimi seemed taller, although she swore she wasn’t. Ruthie was clearly more confident, surer and stronger. And sexy, complicated Jennifer was still sexy…and still complicated.

The occasion was a joyful reunion with our daughter Amy’s beloved friends/roommates at their – could it be – 25th college reunion. Of course the years slipped away in our lunatic hugs and tears in a jammed hotel suite. Amy was right. She had predicted this visit would be emotional, and it was.

These young women have traveled far in both real and metaphoric terms since last we connected. There have been marriages, and divorces. There have been babies, and some painful miscarriages. And most of all, these five have created lives so vastly different from the ones they lived back in the days of too much coffee, too little sleep and desperate romances.

Because we were the parents who lived closest to the campus, we sometimes included Amy’s friends in our holidays and family celebrations. They were always hungry, always dragging bags of laundry behind them, always full of the dreams and angst and ideals of the young.

I loved those weekends with the FOA – Friends Of Amy – who quickly found their way into my heart. I’d sit up with them late into the night, listening, laughing and learning. They were all so smart and funny, so amazingly worldly. And because they missed their own moms, I became something of a surrogate, the universal Jewish mother to this amazing flock.

I cried when each walked down the aisle at graduation, and I knew, despite protestations to the contrary, that this was it. The parting of the ways. It was.

While I kept up with the quintet that included my own daughter, my obvious source of updates, the years rushed by without much face-to-face contact. I loved that Amy would get together with them – no men invited – for breathless mini-reunions. The more complicated life got, the more these five pals needed one another.

I marveled that despite what seemed an endless avalanche of babies, those weekends remained sacrosanct. Mimi even managed to give birth to a daughter during one of those weekends on her home turf in Boston.

So walking into that reunion hotel suite on their former campus, finding my surrogate daughters as lovely as I remembered them – but unmistakably grown-up women – was not just astonishing; it was downright traumatic.

Ruthie teaches at Harvard. Harvard! Andrea is also a college professor in the South. Jen is a lawyer. Mimi is a doctor. Amy is a children’s TV producer. Two of the men they married are now house-husbands as these women dump traditional roles with ease. All have children – a grand total of 11.

In our fleeting time together, we talked of the past, of course, and a lot of our sentences began with “Do you remember when?” I was stunned by their memories of specific meals at our house, of conversations on the floor of our kitchen, because they never wanted to sit on chairs, of broken hearts and new loves and making life decisions when the canvas was still relatively blank and the future was a vastly unknown. I knew these women when they were crafting themselves. I knew them through explosive times and mellow times, and I watched them on the road to becoming.

So perhaps it was inevitable that when they dashed off to their reunion weekend adventures, leaving in the same noisy whirlwind I remembered from years ago, I felt a bittersweet longing for those old days – and a great sense of relief that we were all beyond them.

Amy’s friends are grown women now, lovely, strong, brave and bold. And I am so grateful that our home was a way-station along the incredible journeys to womanhood. What a privilege. What memories. And what hopes for them in this complicated world that has now landed in their wise, capable hands. My prayers go with them.

August 2019
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