Back in 1999, I made a decision that would forever change my life (for the good, I think): I chose to attend the beautifully picturesque Rosemont College as an undergraduate.
At the time, Rosemont was a women's college, which wasn't at all something I'd been looking for when I was college-searching, but which actually ended up being one of the greatest parts of being there. (As a sad aside, Rosemont has recently gone co-ed which, while I'm sure a lucky break for the boys, is quite a shame to its own heritage. I guess Rosemont did what she needed to do to stay afloat--after all, single-sex colleges tend to have stigmas attached to them and aren't a big draw to today's college-bound students--but the move felt a bit like a sell-out to me, and I haven't yet quite forgiven her for it.) There was always a sense of family there, and, because it was a small school, there was also the sense that each individual was valued for herself and her own contributions. The professors, especially those in the English department (since, as an English Literature major, I spent the most time with them), were exceptional. I received a top-notch education and left much brighter than when I entered.
When I left in 2003, not only did I take a degree with me, but I also took relationships with some of the finest women (and one man--my husband!) I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.
I worked very hard in high school, such that I had earned almost a full academic scholarship to Rosemont, which I supplemented with the various grants I'd won from outside organizations like the Rotary, Soroptimist International, and Sam Walton (Wal-mart); the money I earned for having been a papergirl for the Intelligencer for 3 years; and a Stafford loan. In all, I ended up amassing only about $6,000 in college education debt. However, my loans equalled about $16,000 because I lived on campus for 1.5 years and the rest of my debt was a result of room and board. (Isn't that madness?!)
Had I not lived on campus, though, I wouldn't have been able to experience some of the things or cultivate the wonderful friendships I did. Nor would I have qualified for the work-study program, which placed me as a student worker in the Department of Public Safety where I met Brian, who I married in 2004. (We started as friends, and didn't even start dating until my senior year, long after we'd both stopped working there.) Thus, I often joke that my husband and friends cost me $10,000. But it was definitely money well spent.
While my college girlfriends are a varied bunch, each lady is smart, sassy, and successful. Among my own core group (made up of myself, Erin, Ellen, Kate, Kelly, Laura, Lisa, and Theresa--and 3 others who live farther away: Jamie, Nicole, and Nicole), we have 4 ladies in education--2 high school teachers, a guidance counselor, and a world-traveling teacher of English, 3 lawyers, 2 doctors, an HR manager, a lobbyist, and a partridge in a pear tree. Not a bad showing!
Since graduating, we've celebrated 7 marriages, 4 births (and another on the way), and most recently, an outbreak of 30th birthdays!
Though we don't all get together very often (usually, the crowd is smaller), most of us regularly communicate on facebook or by phone. And, 2 to 3 times a year since 2004, we try to assemble for a meeting of the Rosemont College Wine Club. (In vino veritas!)
One of us will host, and thus sends out the invitations, setting the date and wine type. On the designated day, each lady comes bearing a bottle of wine, and an appetite for catching up. We actually DO conduct a thorough wine tasting in and among our chatter: we discuss the color, smell, and flavor of each wine (we used to try to discuss the "legs", too, but admitted at our most recent meeting last month that we clearly have no idea what we're doing on that front, so we've abandoned it for now.) I keep a log of our comments for each bottle we try. At the end of the tasting, I read back our (often hysterical) comments, we vote on which wine was the best overall, a little prize is awarded to the lady who brought the winning bottle, and we set about finishing off as much of the wine as is left. It's really quite a delight. Not the wine so much (though wine is, let's face it, certainly also great), but the friendship.
I can't elaborate further because we agreed long ago that the first rule of Wine Club is that you don't talk about Wine Club, a.k.a "what happens at Wine Club stays at Wine Club." (It's similar to Fight Club that way, I guess. And Vegas. The rule is probably our only thing in common with either, though.) In any event, frankly, I've probably already said too much!
I cherish these get-togethers, though, because they remind me of what friendship means, and the important role it plays in our lives. I love that we are each very different women, each with our own distinct personality and path, but that we also share common memories from a happy time when we blossomed as women at Rosemont, and can continue to grow together as we blossom as women of the world. We celebrate each other's successes, mourn each other's losses, cheer each other on, build each other up, and drink wine. What could be better?
So raise a glass to friendship--how sweet it is. (It may have "cost" me 10 grand, but it was worth every penny!) Cheers!