Keep in touch
I don't think the kids these days understand how hard it used to be to fulfill the promise to "keep in touch." Pre-facebook, pre- or in the early days of email - it was HARD. Even to keep in touch with current, same-town friends was hard. In late August 1999 when I drove down to BYU with my parents to start college, we caravaned with a friend who was driving down with his sister (also for his freshman year). We got to Provo after the 12-hour drive, got separated at a stoplight in town...and I had no way to get in touch with him for days and days after that. Neither of us had a cell phone. We didn't know our university emails yet. We couldn't get into StalkerNet yet (without a university email). I knew he was in the neighborhood, but that was it, and there wasn't much you could do about that back in the days of snail mail and landlines. If you wanted to keep in touch with someone, you had to really mean it. Like, deliberately pass on key contact information, and then COMMIT. None of this lazy "friend on facebook" stuff.
At BYU that same year, I met my eleven roommates. Eleven, you ask? Yes, eleven. There were two apartments of six girls each, and we shared a back door to the fire escape. Of the twelve, I think two sets of two knew each other ahead of time and arranged to be placed there together. The rest of us were thrown together randomly. But do you know, despite the difficulties and lack of cell phones at first, and lack of facebook until a few years ago, and all of us changing mailing addresses all the time over the years: we are all still in touch, and have been throughout the - wait for it - half a lifetime since we all met. (I was 17.5 when I met them and I am 35 now.) And I don't mean that I am still in touch with J, and she is in touch with L, who sometimes talks to S. I mean that we are in touch as a group, as a whole, as a unit.
Imagine! Twelve strangers who met in 1999, who moved in together, and who then spent an academic year arguing about dish-washing habits, and hogging the shower, and fighting and making up immediately, and fighting and NOT making up immediately, and sleeping on each other's floors, and crushing on the same boys - we are still friends! We were so different from each other back then, and, I dare say, even more different from each other now (and different from our college freshman selves. All of those things). But we still keep in touch.
How did we do this, given the lack of facebook, etc., that I mentioned earlier? At first, it was through the old-fashioned method of reunions or mini-reunions - you know, actually meeting in person any excuse we could get. Turns out there are a lot of chances to get together in the years immediately during and after college when you're talking about twelve women who, over the course of a decade or so, are getting engaged and married and having babies.
Then we had an email group, which morphed into a proper online forum that one of us set up. And THEN we started, of all things, a long-distance book club. And when the email threads and forum threads and even book club faded away, facebook was there to take their place. And we still keep in touch. There are roommates, and there are ROOMMATES, and these women are the latter. (Or "roomies/roommies," as we refer to each other.)
Last weekend, one of us died. Marianne was our mother hen - the one who showed up to move into the dorms already in possession of a KitchenAid mixer. I know! The first to get married, though not (if I recall correctly) the first to have kids. A woman born to be a mother and blessed with two beautiful sons, but also born to struggle through devastating bouts of PPD...but able to comfort us in our trials even when she was feeling down. A woman who was firm in her beliefs, and able to defend them clearly and confidently without putting other people (sometimes us!) down. Marianne. She died last weekend.
A few years ago, BYU tore down Heritage Halls, where we twelve shared a back door. At the time, I tried to feel sad about it, but couldn't muster the emotional energy. It was an amazing year of my life, but I would always have my memories independent of any physical structure and besides, I never make it out to Utah anyway, so what difference does it make to me if the building is still standing? But now, with Marianne's passing, I am so, so sad that Carroll Hall isn't there anymore. As what, a memorial? A reminder? I don't know - as evidence, I think, that we lived there and laughed there, together, in person, and then left, and kept in touch.
Instead, the eleven of us are left with, yes, facebook, where we've been sharing a constant stream of photos and memories this week. It's such a mix of emotions - sadness that she's gone, happiness that we still have each other, and joy that we ever had her.
Even for just half a lifetime.