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May 29, 2008
What is this stuff?Oh, gross! one of the other students said, and everybody else at the table laughed and held their raspberry mousses upside down.

I could have told her that it was our dessert, leftover from the alumni banquet last night. But I wasn't really in this conversation. I was just eavesdropping.

I wasn't in the food fight, either, but I watched with interest as half an English muffin sailed through the air from table to table. It hit one girl on the head, and she began to shriek at her assailant. Her seatmate picked her up in a firefighter's carry and hauled her out of the room.

Now I am back in our dorm room, 116 Moore, doing what generations of students have done in this very room, I am sure: avoiding writing. Q, ever more energetic, will attend three lectures in a row and then come and get me for lunch. This afternoon we may go have a look at Emily Dickinson's garden.

We are on the first floor -- no stairs -- and right next to the dining hall, a privilege of being part of the elderly class of 1950. Last night there were but seven of us at our table, including wives -- there were no female students here in the late 1940s, so there is no need to correct "wives" to the more seemly "spouses." A few more may trickle in today. But many will not come back; there is news of a recently surgery for this one, a bad back for that one, a suspicion of some mental confusion in a third. And --more every year -- some have died. They were sophomores in college in 1948. But that was 60 years ago.

Does it feel the same to you? I ask Q.

Oh, well, he says, pointing out the new wing on Valentine Hall as we passed. That had not even been imagined when he was a student here. It's very different, now, of course. But it feels the same. I feel the same.

How sweet they are, these white-haired boys of long ago! They remember and laugh, sing fragments of songs they used to know. They ask after the missing, nod quietly at the news of another death. They have become fine, kind men -- perhaps not all of them, but all the ones I know.

You didn't know me then, I tell him.

I would have liked to, he says, gallantly.

I wasn't born yet.

That must have been why we didn't know each other.

Must have been./i>

Everyone you meet has a history. There was a time before you knew each other, and everyone brings it along. You can enter that time with them, if you want to, and stay there for a bit, looking on. You can see it through their eyes. It is a fine place to visit.

But you must be very gentle. Because it was a long time ago.
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