Time traveling…

Twenty years ago when i walked across this campus, the strap of my backpack tossed over one shoulder, i easily deluded myself into thinking it possible to be mistaken for a student.  A graduate student, probably, but in my late twenties, i could still pass. 

This week?  Nope. 

Sporting my “Elder-Hooker” collection of travel clothing, i couldn’t even pass for a professor this year.  Just another invisible middle-aged woman, attending a conference on the grounds of a marvelous California campus.  A campus wedged neatly between the mountains and the ocean.

This meeting is held annually at the end of June, and has been at this site every third year for decades.  i’ve attended eight of these west coast conferences, going back to the early 1990’s.  The recurring venue – as well as the recurring content, and people – provided an unexpected pinning point, hiding inside a routine business trip. 

Although different from the Christmas pinning point, i was surprised to find myself stumbling backward in time.  When not attending sessions, or being goofy with my friends, i was awash in memories.  It was just a nice summer conference trip… The flashbacks caught me by surprise.

Time with old friends.  Making new ones.  Laughing about all the stupid stuff that happened before.  Who we are.  What we do.  How we live.  Catching up on lives lived hundreds of miles away.  From the mundane to the deeply personal, a chance to get the latest news…

“Hey, he’s fourteen already?  Great looking kid!” 

“I’ve got to do it…  I’m moving out next month.” 

“It’s a constant political battle for lab space and funding!  I’m looking for another gig…”

“Did you hear about Dr. Z?  Did six months in jail for that shit…” 

“Hey, RD dyed his hair!  Who wants to ask him if the carpet matches the drapes?”

Memories of insecurities and angst.  Hook-ups – near misses, line drives.  The occasional grand slam.  Unnerving flashback to a conversation on that bench.  “He died?  Really?  When? What happened?”

Hours spent playing billiards in the local Irish pub.  Pool parties.  Beach parties.  Private parties.  Conning the guys at the bar to get us guitars for an improvised jam session.  Scamming my way on stage with the hired band playing at the conference picnic… after swiping a cowboy hat in order to blend in…

The year i brought my children with me to the meeting.  The Boy, at thirteen, brought a friend.  Hitting the huge concrete park, they were in sk8rboy heaven!  The Girl, at fifteen, enjoyed wandering the small college town, roaming from thrift store to thrift store, while i attended sessions. 

Listening as a colleague commented on the smokin’ hot co-ed walking toward us at the conference reception, wearing a mini-skirt and go-go boots.  Enjoying his discomfort when i said “That’s my daughter.  She’s fifteen. Don’t you have daughters?”

Feeling old and young simultaneously.  Memories rolling by like a newsreel…

A pile of silicon dioxide.  We tell the tales, draw the lines, leave a few footprints.  It all sort of flows together…. 

And the tide rolls in…

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32 thoughts on “Time traveling…

  1. Once again you leave me thoughtful and reflective. Wondering about my pinning points. Hmmm

    *shakes head to dislodge thoughts*

    Conferences with long term friends and colleagues are so rewarding. Not so much for the formal bits but for the informal. Glad you had a good time.

    • sorry to send you wandering… i can do it for brief periods of time, but if i stay there too long? bad things start to happen in my brainpan.

      i lead a charmed life in many ways. but some of that is because when i find good humans? i try really hard not to let go. they are the best parts of being pinned!

  2. Oh dear… that poor man lusting over your daughter (who, obviously, is looking for precisely that effect). What did he say afterwards? Did he laugh it off?

    • he was, and is, a good friend. had seen photos of my kids from birth! The Girl was in the midst of her “Marcia Brady Experimentation Phase”, and it looked adorable on her… we all laughed it off…

  3. That post has to be the definition of “bitter sweet”. I loved it! It’s so weird to get to the point where reflections seem long ago and like they happened to a different person. Your University sounds so beautiful and wonderful, though. If I went to school by the beach I would never have been able to resist the call of the ocean. I would have been lucky to make half my classes. You’re a woman of great fortitude.

    • after the friends left, and i was on my own for an afternoon/evening, i had to fight tears. i loved having one of my closest friends riding shotgun in my rental car, leaving our doors ajar at the hotel, farting around…knowing that the moments are transient. that’s just how it works….

      and it’s not “my” university! i live and work, and attended school, in the midwest. smack dab in the middle of “Nowhere Interesting, USA”. this is a visit. tried like hell to get my kids to apply to this particular school, however. visits would have been yummy….

  4. I’ve had those moments too, but sadly they are usually at funerals. Too many of my friends have already passed too young. We seldom see each other, but never seem to fail at being present to honor the memory of a lost friend. It’s funny, but although we’re now fighting muffin-top, ailing backs, baldness, gray hairs, etc..when we get together and I see the smiles or feel the familiar hugs it throws me back thirty years and I find myself looking at each and everyone of them as though they’ve never aged. The memory keeps them trapped in a time capsule for me. I wonder if I still look that good to them. Ha..ha…

    • that’s the magic of the smiles… we are all ‘kids’ again when the smiling and goofing around starts… i don’t see the age. i certainly don’t feel it. it’s the enormity of the memories — there are SO many of them! how could i have lived all this and still feel young?

      and it’s a rough transition when the funerals are no longer for friends of your parents, but your own. had a few of those. it’s the natural order of things, but not pleasant…

  5. Sadly, I have fewer of such link-ups these days. But reading this was a happy reminder.
    And the carpet matching the drapes? Years since I heard that one!
    Thanks for the smiles,Daisyfae

    • as i get older, i find i have to work a bit harder to keep expanding the boundaries of my world… it would be easy to just drop into the old friend circle. i have some delicious ones. but i find one of the things that makes me feel invigorated is the process of meeting new people, making new connections… afraid of losing that when i become less mobile.

  6. Stepped in a deep hole this time. Very nice post. Takes me back to a number of things that have taken me back that way. Oh, wow. Meta-nostalgia.

    • i think you’ve had this reaction to my posts before… yes, i am feeling the same thing i felt the last time you resonated like this. Trippy. i need ‘shrooms if we’re going to keep doing this.

  7. I sincerely doubt you summon the appearance of an elder-hook when robed up for a conference. Cool tale indeed: plus, that discovery of thrift shops and vintage clothing at age 15? I loved that time.

    • probably not elder-hooker. more like “lazy cougar”…. The Girl was a thrifter from her early teens, and had a fashion sense that completely rocked. on a great budget. her prom dress cost $1.25. i had offered to buy her a nice one, but she’d have nothing to do with it…

    • it’s strange. i really didn’t like this. re-worked it a few times more than usual, because it didn’t feel like what i really wanted to say. heart-felt, but not the right words… worst critic, i suppose… but thank you, master wordsmith… much appreciated.

  8. I sure as hell don’t know where time goes, but it does. I’ve been waxing nostalgic lately, when it dawned on me I’ve been a transplant from a teensy town in Idaho (aren’t they all) into the sogginess that is Seattle for almost 25 years. I’ve seen lots of changes….I don’t suppose there going to stop anytime soon.

    • you know how it seems that each year goes by more quickly? it does, relative to the number of years you’ve already lived. i’m starting to get whiplash from it… never been to Idaho. need to do that…

  9. I’m just another invisible middle-aged woman, too. Trouble is, I’m only 30.

    We seem to have overlapped in California getaways. I got back from San Diego and LA on Friday, and I’m still in denial that vacation has ended.

    • i’m either going to start wearing really big hats, or start robbing banks. haven’t decided which yet… i was north of San Diego, but have spent time on Coronado Island, and would live there if i shat cash…

    • she looked adorable. i was messing with him… a known horn-dog, i’d warned him for years that when his daughter grew up, it would slap him in spades. and i bet it did!

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