Saturday, July 10, 2010
Tribute to a Guardian Angel
My college roommate, Mary and I have remained good friends though we seldom see each other. Last summer she brought a French couple over to tour parts of the U.S. When they came to D.C. I had the pleasure of showing them around my favorite city. It always amazes me how we can reconnect as if no time has passed. I wish we lived closer, but her home is in Michigan and I can't imagine leaving D.C. The first time I met Mary was during move-in to the dorm room we would share for two years at a small, liberal arts college in Iowa. We weren't exactly fish out of water, but neither one of us had lived anywhere near livestock. Nevertheless, we came to enjoy the curious dairy cows in a pasture a block from our dorm. As we unpacked I realized I would be rooming with a clothes horse. The saving grace was that she made most of her clothes. She even covered shoes with the same fabric as a couple of the outfits she'd made. I made some of my clothes, too, but it was evident even to non-sewers that I had. On the other hand, Mary's suits, dresses, blouses and slacks looked like they came from boutiques. Was I jealous? Well, yeah! One of my biggest regrets during my two years rooming with Mary was convincing her to start smoking. Once I was free from my parent's smoke-free rules, I let loose, so she almost had no choice. The dangers of cigarettes hadn't sunk in yet, so there were lots of us puffing away in dorm rooms, lounges, hallways, wherever we wanted to, except in classrooms and the chapel. I quit in 1985, but Mary still smokes and it's my fault. Beer drinking was another avenue we explored together. During our second month on campus, we somehow got invited to a kegger at a local guy's house on the edge of campus. Trying to be cool and hip, we quickly chugged 4 big cups of beer from a keg in the middle of the living room. The next thing I remember is lying on a stack of coats on a bed with some guy groping me. If Mary hadn't noticed I was missing and come looking for me, I could have lost a whole lot more than my dignity. Two impossibly handsome brothers -- not college students -- were famous for "breaking in" freshmen women. The brother trying to get into my pants was so angry he pushed both of us out the front door leaving us to stagger back across a major highway and to our dorm. In the late 1960s, colleges had curfews which were probably a good thing for inexperienced, gullible girls like us. I don't remember signing back into the dorm in front of the dorm mother. We must have held our breath doing it because we never heard about it from her. I have to disclose that alcohol was strictly prohibited on our Methodist campus and, of course, we were both under-age, but that didn't stop anyone from binge drinking. Not much has changed over the past 40-odd years. Mary's biggest role was putting-up with my waxing and waning in an impossible relationship I had with an older man. The trauma lasted for a year and a half and she was always there for me. When the break-up finally came, she stopped me from slicing my wrists. She was and is rock solid and wiser than she believes she is. I feel so lucky that she came into my life and remains an important, cherished friend. If anyone reading this has their own guardian angel, I'd love to hear about it.