On being ... a fossil collector

On being … a fossil collector

By Ingrid Sapona

My 25th college reunion was a couple weeks ago. I didn’t go. I’m not one of those who refuse to go to reunions -- I’ve been to previous ones from high school, undergrad, and law school. When the “save the date” announcement came out over the summer, I contacted a few friends to see whether they were going, but it seemed that most weren’t. Given this, and feeling too cheap to spring for airfare, a hotel, and a rental car, I pretty much decided not to go.

Then, when the actual invitation with the schedule for the weekend came out in September, I phoned the last friends (a husband and wife) that I hadn’t contacted earlier to see if they’d be going. They live about a half-day’s drive from the college, but they return there quite often because they have relatives nearby. My friend said they probably weren’t going to the reunion because they’d recently been at our alma mater for another event and they’d be there later in September to drop their daughter off for her freshman year.

I knew that my friends’ daughter had applied and been admitted, but I wasn’t thinking about the fact that the academic year was about to start. Anyway, the conversation then segued to what dorm she’d be living in. As soon as he said the name I mentally skimmed a map of the campus to find that dorm. When I pictured which one it was, I thought to myself: “Oh, the new dorm”.

Then my friend went on, “You know, it was the funniest thing. When she told me what dorm she’d been assigned, I said to her, ‘Oh, you’ll be in the new dorm’.” I immediately confessed to my friend that I had had the same thought! Then he told me that when his daughter heard this, she gave him a quizzical look and it took him a minute or so to realize that what he (and I) fondly thought of as the “new dorm” was now over 25 years old! We both had to laugh…

After that, I didn’t think any more about the reunion until I got an e-mail from the alumni association with photos from the event. Naturally, I was interested in looking at them. As I clicked on the link for the photos, my mind nostalgically went back to college days and college parties. Then, the funniest thing happened when the photos came up. Instead of a bunch of college co-eds partying, I saw a bunch of middle-age mom and dad-types -- definitely not the image of a college get-together that I had been anticipating moments before.

My surprise at the reunion photos reminded me of the “new dorm” conversation I had with my friend and got me thinking about how some images and recollections are cast in our minds, much like a fern imprint that’s fossilized. Now, don’t misunderstand. I’m not implying anything derogatory about people my age being somehow frozen in time -- just some of our memories. Besides, I rather like the imagery of thinking of memories as fossils. After all, I was always quite enthralled when I came across a fossil and thought about how the object that made the fossil is gone, but its imprint is still tangible.

Memories are like that, I think. They’re imprints in our minds and senses and when you come across them you can take pleasure in them once again. But more importantly, memories share other characteristics with fossils: they’re a link to the past but they only represent a fragment of it. Also, they take time to create. Furthermore, they’re evidence of a world that’s still evolving.

So, looking at it that way, it’s easy to accept the fact that though our memories might be frozen in time, our lives aren’t. After all, if you look at yourself in the mirror every day -- or see college friends quite regularly -- you certainly know that the college co-ed that once existed doesn’t any longer. (Thankfully, physical changes seem to blur when viewed from a nearby vantage, so often we hardly even notice them!)

I feel very fortunate that over the years I’ve collected many memories. And, I’m looking forward to collecting many more fossils in the years to come because I intend to fully enjoy the time and effort that goes into making them.

© 2007 Ingrid Sapona


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