If you attempt to read this, please do me a favor and try to make it to the end before passing judgment.
A couple of days ago, I did a search of my own posts on Facebook. I don’t even remember what I was hoping to find. Maybe it’s because I drink a lot of beer. 😉 In any case, when I did that search, I unexpectedly found today’s featured photo. I got a kick out of it for many nostalgic reasons.
That photo was taken 30 years ago, during my junior year at what was then known as Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia. It’s a pretty special picture for many nostalgic reasons… including some I’ve just realized so many years later. I’ll get to why in a few paragraphs, if you’ll just indulge me a bit.
My junior year roommate was a year older than me, and the one I got along with best during my college years. She was a very serious student– extremely hard working and high achieving. I don’t know if this is still true, but at the time, she was said to be the very last organ performance major at Longwood. Her goal was to be a music teacher. I hung out with a lot of music majors. They were some of the hardest working people I’ve ever known.
This roommate and I got along very well, which is an amazing thing. We lived on the third floor of South Cunningham, which has since been demolished. In fact, the room I had during my sophomore year is no longer used as a dormitory. It’s now an administration building. Those of us who went to Longwood College, as opposed to Longwood University, have very different memories of the campus. It really has changed that much. I guess it leads to bonding on Facebook.
I’m always a little dismayed when I realize that I went through SEVEN Longwood roommates, and that was even with two semesters during which I had my own room. Sometimes I feel like I’m just not a very likeable person who isn’t compatible with most others, even though Bill and I are ridiculously compatible.
Then, when I think about it, I realize that my roommate situation is not as bad as it sounds. One year, I temporarily had a second roommate who eventually got kicked out of school. One year, my roommate joined a sorority and moved in with her new “sisters”. I had the room to myself in the spring. Another year, I had a roommate for a few weeks, until she left to student teach. Then I got a new roommate during the spring semester before my graduation, and we got along fine.
Then there’s my very first roommate, “Margaret” (not her real name) with whom I only spent a week before she basically kicked me out of the room so her slutty friend across the hall could move in. I’ve already blogged about her, though…
Before anyone comes at me, let me just say that I know it’s not nice to call someone a slut, but that was basically what Margaret’s friend and future roommate was like. We had been at college for a mere week, and she just wanted to skank around with fraternity guys. My former roommate delusionally thought the frat guys would like her, too, so she tagged along with her friend of one week. I understand from my former suitemates that their living arrangement didn’t work out very well.
If I hadn’t been in the middle of that mess during my first week of college, I might have felt sorry for my former roommate. The chick from across the hall– who openly and unabashedly spoke of her “twat” itching (yes, she literally said this– and I was confused because, at the time, I don’t even think I knew what a twat was)– was probably just using ex roommate for her money.
Margaret had a lot of money, but to be blunt, she was definitely not a looker. But she and fraternity skank showed me nothing but contempt, so I don’t have a lot of regard for either of them. Besides, it all worked out for the best. Both of those women left Longwood after our freshman year, and this article isn’t about them, anyway. So, I’ll move on. 😉
Junior year was a pretty good year for me. That was the one year I finally had a good friend as a roommate. Because I was 20 years old, I couldn’t buy my own booze… except at a couple of places that never carded people. My friend, who wasn’t a drinker, helped me buy a case of Bud Dry at what was then a Harris Teeter supermarket (I think it’s now a Kroger). Bud Dry was highfalutin’ beer in those days. I usually drank Natural Light or something of that caliber. There was a Canadian beer called Arctic Bay that I used to get all the time. I don’t think they make it anymore. I know Bud Dry is now defunct, as of 2010.
Being 20 years old and not very experienced in the ways of the world, I honestly thought Bud Dry was good stuff. So I packed it into my dented and RENTED dorm fridge and took a picture for posterity. At some point, I shared the photo on Facebook, where a lot of laughs and discussion ensued. As I mentioned up post, South Cunningham was demolished, but it was a much loved home at Longwood for a lot of students. So that photo of Bud Dry was definitely prime sharing material. First, I shared it on my personal page; then I shared it in a group for Longwood College alums (as opposed to Longwood University alums).
At this writing, about 250 people in the group have liked the photo, and there have been a lot of lively comments about it. Most of the comments have been about what “expensive” tastes I had, since I wasn’t drinking Milwaukee’s Best (Beast) or its ilk. Again, the reason there was a photo was because I was “proud” of drinking Bud Dry. I thought I was living large. I was, but only in terms of my clothing size. 😀
I was enjoying the Facebook commentary about the photo when I noticed someone with a familiar, yet unusual, last name had “liked” it. Suddenly, I remembered a woman I knew of because of my second Longwood roommate, the woman who had joined Kappa Delta sorority and moved in with her “sisters” during the spring of my freshman year.
Though I never joined a sorority myself, I eventually learned that most of them had nicknames based on their campus reputations. I also found out that a sorority chapter on one campus might be totally different than they’d be on another. For instance, I have some cousins who were Sigma Kappas at the University of Georgia. The Sigma Kappas at Longwood when I was a student there were known as really “smart” and kind of nerdy. But my cousins, if they had gone to Longwood, were probably more like Kappa Deltas or maybe Zeta Tau Alphas, both of which were founded at Longwood. Actually, if they had gone to Longwood, my cousins would have probably pledged ZTA, because their grandmother, my Aunt Jeanne, was a ZTA at Longwood.
My roommate after “Margaret” was a woman who happened to have the same first and last name as Margaret did. However, she spelled her first name differently and went by a nickname. I’ll call her “Maggy”. She was the opposite of Margaret. While Margaret was a narcissistic asshole who wore braces, and was morbidly obese, Maggy was slim, cool, and pretty. She was a natural for the “KD ladies”, as she told me they were known as at Longwood.
Maggy and I weren’t destined to be long term friends, but she was a much better fit than Margaret was. At least she didn’t come in during the middle of the night and turn on the overhead light while I was sleeping, right? In fact, a lot of nights, she slept with her boyfriend. That was cool for me!
Anyway, Maggy was very busy during the semester she pledged her sorority. She had a composite photo of all of the “sisters”. I remember seeing that photo every day during my first semester at Longwood. I remember most of the women in that photo were really conventionally pretty, like Maggy was. However, there was one woman who stood out in the composite photo. She was very attractive, but not in the super pretty way the others were. She had what seemed like a rare kind of charisma. I found her interesting and was curious about her.
I remember taking notice of the woman’s name, mainly because she had kind of an unusual moniker. I also noticed her because she had a dazzling smile that was very genuine, like someone everyone would want to meet and know. Again, she was not gorgeous in the typical popular sorority girl way, but she had an inner radiance about her. I could tell that she was someone who made friends very easily.
Maggy’s new sorority sister had a rare kind of true inner beauty. Her magnetism was obvious and memorable to me, even though I didn’t even know her. In fact, I never even met her when I was at Longwood. As an 18 year old, I just noticed and remembered her name and her face… and as time marched on, I eventually forgot about her… until last night.
I noticed someone with the same unusual last name liking my beer fridge post. I hadn’t thought of Maggy’s “dazzling smiled” sorority sister in well over 30 years. She was two years ahead of me, and we didn’t run in the same circles. At first, I thought the person who had liked the photo was the same woman with the dazzling smile. She hadn’t spelled out her first name on Facebook, but she had the same first initial as Maggy’s sorority sister did, plus the same surname.
I was curious, so I took a look at the person’s profile. After a minute or two, I realized that the person who had liked my post wasn’t the woman with the dazzling smile. Instead, she appeared to be a family member– perhaps a sister or a cousin.
There was a picture of the woman with the smile on her public Facebook page, and based on the comments, it appeared that she had died. I followed another link to Maggy’s sorority sister’s profile, and saw more comments from people who missed her. They commented on her spirit and her laugh. I could relate to that, since my laugh is very distinctive, too. When I die, I’m sure if anyone still knows me offline, they’ll comment on my laugh, too.
A few more minutes of investigation revealed that the woman with the smile had died of breast cancer. I soon found many pictures of her before and after treatment. There were pictures of her that recalled how she’d looked in her Kappa Delta composite photo. And there were pictures of her smiling bravely, with very short hair, and then finally completely bald. In every single one of those photos, there was that radiant smile that defied the circumstances and revealed what appeared to be an indomitable spirit. I don’t even know her story, but the smile told me a lot about her.
Soon, I found myself looking closer at the people she’d left behind. This was a woman who was obviously much beloved by a lot of folks, especially her family, but also friends and colleagues. She had clearly made an impression on many, and had left a very positive and indelible mark on their hearts. I suddenly felt kind of sad, because I wished I’d had a chance to meet her. Behind her sparkling, lively eyes, and bright, brave, dazzling smile, even when she was completely bald, there was a remarkable woman who had really made a difference to so many.
Of course, if I had met her, there’s every chance that we wouldn’t have meshed. I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. I tend to be the kind of person people love or hate. But now that I think about it, looking at pictures of Maggy’s sorority sister reminds me of an experience I had on a road trip years ago, when I happened to run into a Buddhist monk. I wrote about that experience here, but the short story is, that guy had a countenance that immediately put me at ease and calmed me down when I had been hangry and wound up tighter than a spring. I was awestruck and moved by simply being in the peaceful monk’s presence, looking at him from across a crowded room.
When I did a similar search for old photos last night, I happened across one about one of my relatives… She happened to live on a farm called Longwood, and she died a couple of years ago. I wasn’t very close to this relative. Although we were family, we didn’t agree on religion or politics. However, when she died, many people were genuinely devastated.
I noticed that along with the post her sister– another relative of mine– had written about missing her, there was a photo of them. And I noticed that they both had dazzling, warm, and genuine smiles, too. Even though we’re family, but not close friends, I can see that they obviously have left indelible marks on people. If I didn’t already know them due to our family connection, I’d probably be struck and ultimately touched by their beautiful smiles, too.
Isn’t it funny how a photo of a rented dorm fridge full of Bud Dry posted on Facebook can lead me to these places? Anyway… if anyone related to this woman figures out who she is and that I’ve written about her, I just want to say I’m very sorry for your loss. I can tell by the photos showcasing her smile that she was a very special person. Either that, or her dentists are worth their weight in platinum. 😉 (I’m kidding, of course…)