A college reunion and twenty years of change, processed through the light of the sunset

I just wrapped up a trip back home to New York to attend my college reunion, among other things. In the 4 days I was there I drove hundreds of miles mainly through the hills and valleys of New York but I covered way more emotional terrain than I ever expected.

I am not really a crier, it’s just not in my nature but at several points during the week I felt the tears well up and attempt to escape as much as I tried to restrain them. I felt tears of amazement as I sat in the audience at Hamilton Wednesday night, watching an incredible adaptation of the life of someone who I have studied and admired as our financial founding father. I felt tears of sadness as I saw massive renovations to the little corner I called home for 10 years in Connecticut, the place where I lived when I got married, where I brought my babies home for the first time. I also felt the kind of tears that only sisterhood could evoke as I stood with my classmates, arm in arm, singing our alma mater at convocation one more time.

But my house as I knew it is gone. The women’s college I graduated 20 years ago is now co-ed. My own son can attend college there if he wishes. My family is aging and facing challenges. How do I process these changes?

Maybe the answer lies in the sunset.


I didn’t take too many pictures of my trip but I had a shortlist of pictures I wanted. Capturing the sunset at this uniquely beautiful place I called home for 4 years topped the list. I attended college in the mid-90s, a time when you couldn’t see your pictures instantaneously but instead had to arrange for film processing so there aren’t too many pictures, but I do have about a dozen different sunset photos from my time there.

Sunsets are like snowflakes, no two are alike. The ingredients of time, sun angle, light, clouds, and even humidity converge to create a different sunset each time even though you are standing on the same spot. For me that spot was on the dock by the boathouse on the lake.

Just like the sunset, this spaces and places are ever-changing as they should be. I can’t expect my house to stay the same as I am sure the new family who lives there wants to make our house their home just as I am doing with my new house here. Liberal arts colleges are being threatened so the decision to go co-ed was one rooted in the instinct of survival so our dear alma mater would remain for my daughter’s, as well as my son’s generation and hopefully beyond.

But the sunset is always there. I discovered that my houses are no longer my homes but I can still go home, back to the houses just like I can still go down to the dock to see the sunset, no matter how different it looks. Because no matter how different it looks some things still are the same. Of course there are the memories. I can still hear my babies cry in the rooms of that little cape that is not so little anymore. And even though there are deeper voices of men at school now, my memories contain the shouts and laughter of only women in the halls, in the paths, in the dining hall, calling me to hurry up, time for dinner, time for convocation, time to sleep off the cheap champagne and beer to get to class, time to dance around the sycamore, time to get your gown on for commencement.

Those constants will remain unaltered by time, change, or circumstance. That’s why we go back. The sunset is always there.

The light of the sunset still reaches out to me, calling me home. That light will carry me through the changes the next 5, 10 or even 20 years will bring, reuniting me with the places and faces I love once again.

Thank you for reading. If you liked this post you may also enjoy this one about why women’s colleges are still relevant, or this post about the time at college I almost got engaged.

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Tags: memory lane, moving

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