As I drove down to Northfield again for Bror's graduation on Sunday, I was filled with happy nostalgia. It's been five years since my own graduation and approaching the hill on a sunny afternoon brought back all the best memories of campus.
I winded through side roads to a parking spot near the football field and looked up at the buildings that hold the stories of many. Mine live in those walls, too, and I smiled thinking about the ways I grew and changed here. Campus was filled with old friends saying hello and young friends saying goodbye. Each bench under a shady tree and every stretch of sidewalk live on as beloved places in my history.
But the thing that made me most joyful about the trip down memory lane was the surprise I felt remembering the women my dearest friends use to be five years ago. I realized that I think about them all in the present tense these days - who they are and where they are today - instead of living in the memories college. While many of us don't see each other often and none of us live together anymore, we are good about staying in touch about today and tomorrow, choosing to recall the past fondly now and then.
Wandering around the hill showed me countless ways the strong and beautiful women I call my friends were shaped and formed by this place. I remembered our ex-boyfriends, relationships that ended but did not fail because we learned something from each one. I walked the long path down from Thorson Hall and up to Old Main thinking about the cold mornings Helen trekked to her Hispanic studies classes, slowly becoming the advocate for peace and learning Bolivia now holds dear.
I thought about long dinners in the cafeteria and trying to sneak a mid-morning bagel out past the lady who guarded the exit. There were lazy Saturdays that meant waking up slowly, one at a time, and piecing together the events and hilarity of the night before once everyone was gathered. We would curl up together in laughter, embracing our bedhead and wiping at our smudged eye makeup in the weekend calm.
But these are not the ways I remember my dearest women on most days. Usually they live in my heart as businesswomen and coaches, educators and visionaries who have been around the block once or twice. They've been to graduate school, moved away or worked hard enough to notice that there are now younger, more inexperienced versions of ourselves in the office and its time to decide what kind of mentor and boss we want to be.
Even though I cherish the women I remember from our own day of caps and gowns, I am most grateful for the women they've become - the women this place prepared them all to be. So when it was time to go, I found myself feeling the same happy nostalgia driving away from campus, confident that there are many cap and gown days ahead no matter where I go.