Old Friends

I just finished a long and then very long email to a friend from college, a woman I see maybe once every five years and with whom I correspond maybe twice a year.  As I was writing, I found myself speaking more candidly than I would to most people. I started to remember what she looked like at twenty, the way her hair was always a dark, smooth and shiny cap while mine was mouse-brown, curly and untidy. Her smile was beautiful and still is. I was good at smiling so I didn’t envy her that. But the hair, the hair! And guess what? She still has it and I’m still envious!

When I write to Suzie, I welcome memories that seldom come to mind under normal circumstances. College. Apart from the fact that I was always worried that no one would ever fall in love with me, that I’d never be a mother, that I would never understand what I was meant to do in life, college was a good time for me. Most of the time I loved the studying, for one thing. I wish I’d paid attention in Geology lab but what twenty year old girl could be expected to do much more than yawn at 7:30 A.M. I had to take what was then called Transactional Grammar twice and never did manage better than a C. It seemed pointless to me when I’d been raised in a family where everyone spoke in complete sentences. I seemed to have been born knowing how to use lay and lie. TG was required because I was an English major at San Jose State. In that department we mostly studied the history of ideas and how those ideas played out in the literature of the times. History and Literature: I loved it. I was also in the Humanities honor program which meant I had to read The Iliad in the first week of my first semester of my first year.  In the words of 2011, What’s up with that? Years later, Art read it aloud to me and I finally figured out what all the fuss was about.

Drusilla Campbell in college

A Halloween in College

Before I was an English major I studied drama and had fantasies of being an actress. It didn’t take me long to realize that compared to Carolyn Reed (the first person I ever knew who admitted to smoking grass) and some others in the department, I was barely good enough for a walk-on. Lessons I took in as a drama major have really helped my writing, though. I learned to imagine the scenes I write as if they are being played out on the stage and I hear the voices of my old friends speaking the dialog I make up for my characters.

When I write to Suzie I remember being in a sorority. I pledged Kappa Alpha Theta in the first semester of my first year, about the same time I was supposed to be reading about Achilles and Co.  I’ve only come to appreciate group living and the concept of sisterhood in recent years. Back in the day, I was not a successful sorority girl. I didn’t like the rules, so I broke them. I was intimidated by most of my sisters. They seemed to have bottomless wardrobes and all the money they needed or wanted, while I was going home on weekends to babysit for a dollar an hour, getting along on what cash my parents could spare – not much — and help from my grandmother.  Did I mention that I broke the rules and had to have serious little talks with the housemother, talks that only made me more determined to say and do what I pleased? I moved out of the sorority house in my junior year and got an apartment with Suzie and another girl, Cheryl. I was sure I’d never look back at Kappa Alpha Theta. Surprise! These days I get email from Thetas of all ages and from all over the country and I love hearing from them. It’s like getting mail from cousins I didn’t know I had.

When I write to Suzie I remember three things in particular.  Laughter, for one. Runaway laughter and not just occasionally, but often. And tears: because of family troubles, and boy troubles, and disappointments and yearnings that seemed like they would never be satisfied. And I remember confidences shared between twin beds in a darkened room  and over steaks at Henry’s, and walking home from class.

Out of nowhere, a memory: I’m walking in the back entrance to the cafeteria in a black Lanz dress with a Princess Di collar. On my way to meet the current love of my life, I pass the football players’ table and a bunch of them look up. I remember flirting like crazy, feeling the power.

Is it any wonder I feel a happy rush of excitement when I see Suzie’s name on my email list once or twice a year and look forward to the Christmas card that shows me her smiling face and lustrous, smooth brown hair?

Filed under Family & Friends, Writing | Tags: , , ,

3 Responses to “Old Friends”

  1. Chris DP says:

    Oh Dru- so incredibly beautiful. (Your writing, too.) We always find something to criticize about ourselves, don’t we? I need to remember that someday I’ll look back at the 40ish body and face that so dismay me today and think ‘wow, what a knockout I was!’

  2. ellen says:

    Love your writing. My friend: Peggy. Straight and blonde. In the time of Twiggy. Jean Shrimpton. Cher. Mine … like yours-unruly curls. And laughter. Still today. Snorting and gasping hoots! Nothing like something shared with ones knowing history, not History!

  3. Mary Beaucuop says:

    Hubba hubba! Why are you carrying a tire? You look pretty happy having acquired it.
    I feel fortunate knowing you Dru.