When I went off to college, my mother encouraged me to join a sorority. I did, but not hers. The sorority I joined had been my grandmother’s and greatgrandmother’s. Shortly after I arrived at University #1, I joined the swim team as a walk-on. Although heavily recruited by the girls on the swim team at the Theta house, I selected the other house for sentimental reasons, its proximity to the library and lovely ivy covered brick façade, and I liked the girls who were recruiting me. (I didn’t want to be an embarrassment to the girls at Theta if I quit the swim team or was booted.) Although by no means “hot”, I did have a gorgeous GPA and was a double legacy so the other group had to take me. What I did not do was look at the other women with whom I was “rushing”. This was a mistake.
Later on in my freshman year, shortly before initiation, I sat down with an attractive, trim blonde haired woman in one of the “card” rooms, a room designed especially for playing cards. She inquired as to how I was faring. I told her that frankly, I was not really fitting in with the other women. She encouraged me to keep at it, that things can change once you move from the dorms into the house. Several months later I met Raftbuddy who had started out at another university and then transferred; the woman interviewing me was her mother. I later transferred to a university of repute in my home state, forcing myself to live in the sorority house. Raftbuddy’s mother’s message still resonated. (If I had not followed her sage advice, I would not have met Pasadena Rose and consequently Mr. Understanding.)
Are you following this train of thought? Stick with me! So, several years ago, I received an invitation to join a sorority alumni group on the island. I put on my make up and drove to the other end of the island. I was also looking for a NBF (New Best Friend) for my mother who was new to the island. La Gringa was the hostess. She had lived in Chile for umpteen years with her husband who worked for a copper company. She served sundaes and I had a surprisingly good time meeting the other women. Since then I have gone to several other gatherings. I am always the youngest but no matter. These ladies know island and sorority history, even if they have all forgotten the secret handshake.
Last night I met a former neighbor of La Lopez at one of these gatherings. Six degrees of separation has collapsed to three. Kristin used to live in Santiago, Chile but now lives in Monterey, Mexico and volunteers with an orphanage (more on this later). Lois learned to golf at age sixty and is now tearing up the local golf courses in her seventies, winning tournaments left and right. The gathering was held at two fishing cabins on the same road which belong to two sisters; their mother had been a national PooBah and was an original Pacific Northwest Ya-Ya. One of the husbands, who had been a crew coach at UCLA, rounded out the evening telling my mother, also a Bruin, about Mr. Caviezel, the elder, playing second string basketball to Lou Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabar); he sat on the bench a lot. Mr. Caviezel, the elder, now lives on the north end of the island, unaware that his last name is now a verb.
In my life, circumstances have forced me to return to certain life themes. Not burning bridges is a big one. Listening to the advice of elders is another. Redemption. As my plastic surgeon once told me, “Things are not always as they appear.” In the end, though, it all comes back to the celestial caviezel, God’s way of playing a joke on me. I am waiting for the next punch line.