One of the things that J and I share, with increasing significance, is our college past. We both graduated from Yale in 1982. On top of that, we now have two children who are Yale graduates, plus an array of their wonderful friends who have become a part of our extended family to varying degrees.
Add to that my father, uncle, grandfather, great-grandfather...
Although a part of me always cringes at the appearance of hyper-privilege in that legacy, a bigger part of me is deeply grateful to be connected to that multi-layered history. On May 21st, my daughter attended her boyfriend's graduation, with all the accompanying celebration and anticipation. Four days later, J and I arrived to celebrate our 30th reunion. That alone felt like a profound juxtaposition - these almost simultaneous celebrations of our two generations, in the same quads, under the same tents, amidst the same old, stone edifices - 30 years apart.
Then of course I expanded my thoughts to include the other thousands all around campus, graduates from the 1940's to 2007; and all of the ones from a couple of hundred years before that, now dead and gone.
They walked over these stones, sat in these classrooms, listened to the bells in Harkness Tower from their dorm rooms. Every one of those people from every class was once young and full of anticipation and uncertainty at the door to their future, right here in this same space. Layer upon layer of personal histories, personal triumphs and tragedies, growth and change and learning and the bursting open of the gates of the mind.
Time seeps into the pages of history and blurs the lines between then and now.
I know I was not alone in feeling overwhelmed by the experience. It was lovely, reminiscent, poignant, this re-entering of our past, seen through the filters of the present. Many faces were still happily familiar - almost as though they were the same 20 year old faces photoshopped to suggest aging. Even in individual faces, the layers of time leapt out at you.
We have grown and mellowed, and we are good to each other. But it was a lot to take in. Post-reunion fatigue was described in multiple posts around the airwaves.
Back at home, it is another kind of revisiting to take a walk at dawn out in our lovely fields of central Maine. Here we are again, in the shameless, explosive fertility of pre-summer. There comes the sun again, moving towards its northernmost reach, finding its way insistently through the lush greenery. I have been here before, but not exactly here. It is another layer of pre-summer, another layer of dawn, another generation of purple irises around the pond and wet dandelions in the dew-heavy grasses.
My dogs provide some consistency.
Kate's stick is still ever present,
Clara makes her way on her own,
But - Kate sleeps more. There is more grey on Guster's nose. Clara is lame from degenerative disease in her knees.
Revisiting the past is important - taking time to remember, to renew connections, to reassess oneself. Who am I now? What do I want to add in my life as the next layer to look back upon?
We don't really have much control over a lot of this. No one has figured out how to lasso time and take it in hand. So it's important to pay attention and take control of what we can while we're still here, living amidst the infinite layers of time.