The Meaning of Reunion

Reflections five years out       
By Mary Lorraine Snauffer ’05

The last time we were all together — the five of us — it was May 2005, and it was 1:00 a.m.

We were standing outside Korova, a local bar on the Commons then. We had just graduated from Ithaca College a few days earlier, and the first of our group, Julie, would be leaving early the next morning. Over the next week the rest of us would pack up our cars and drive off in a daze. We were all moving out of the old brick house we shared senior year on West Seneca Street that was filled with bicycles and books and, more often than not, adorned in icicles. We were transitioning into the next life chapter, or so my parents had told me.

Outside Korova on that warm spring night with a bright moon, we were hug-ging.  A few of us were crying. I have trouble crying when I’m supposed to because it takes me longer to wrap my head around what is actually happening.

What was actually happening was that college was over. That the five of us, who met freshman year while living in Tallcott Hall and stayed close friends ever since, were separating. Separating big time. Julie to Los Angeles, Jamie to New York City, Erin to North Carolina, and Catie to Seattle. I was moving to Thailand.

We weren’t together again for another five years. If you had told me that the night outside Korova, I would have cried.

The Guatemala City airport is small, and the five of us are being very loud. Squealing and hugging and laughing. This is our reunion. April 2010. We have no plans. We have no connection to Guatemala. Catie is the only one with some knowledge of Spanish. The point was to go away someplace and have an experience together. To reconnect before we lost one another — because up until this point, we were losing one another — slowly and surely, as work, boyfriends, and adult responsibilities got in the way of our friendship.

Five years out of college is a strange life marker. I had this sneaking suspicion that real life, hard life, was about to begin. I wanted to touch back with the people who knew me best, whom I knew best, to make sure we were all O.K.

It is Semana Santa, a Catholic holiday Guatemala celebrates the week before Easter. Brightly colored carpets handmade with flower petals, pine needles, and dyed sawdust blanket the streets. Long processions of townspeople dressed in purple cloaks carry huge Catholic effigies. Horns and drums follow. Everything is clouded with incense. It’s magical, and it’s a complete surprise. We have chosen this week solely because it is the only week between February and June when we were able to coordinate all of our schedules.

For one week we followed these processions. We let villagers take us by the hand and lead us. We ate warm tortillas, bought bright textiles, got lost, stumbled upon volcanoes, dove into a cold and clear lake, gaped and gasped, got sick with parasites, couldn’t stop laughing about the parasites, white-knuckled the rail of a boat that was surely too crowded not to sink, and we talked. And we talked. Then we cried: I feel like I’m most myself when we’re together. And then, just as suddenly, it was over. Back home. Alone and scattered across the country. 

My suspicion was right. Shortly after that trip, life started getting hard. Two months later one of our fathers suddenly and tragically died. That night five cell phones buzzed in different cities around the country sharing the sad news. Three of us made it to the funeral, sitting on pews, crying into our laps.

This is what I learned in Guatemala: The friends you make in college are the people you become yourself with. Whether you want it to or not, after-college life spins you off. As you spin, white-knuckle those friends. They’re the people who are going to celebrate with you during the good parts. They are the people who will save you from the hard parts.

Mary Lorraine Snauffer ’05 is a senior social optimization analyst at Reprise Media. She lives in New York City. Mary, Jamie Mandel, and Erin Rafalowski returned to campus in October for Fall Splash.