Friday, 17 September 2010

Nostalgia (But not really). Part 2.


Once back at Laurier, I made a vow to try harder.  I'd made it this far, and it seemed silly to give up now, just because of a language barrier.  So I strapped down, visited the writing centre, talked to my teachers, got used to people screaming "pamplemousse" at me once they heard my accent (and stopped asking "excuse me?"), and joined clubs to meet new people.

I in fact became an exec with the science-fiction club, "Skiffy," thanks to the enthusiastic invite of the then-president, Rick Henderson.   It was the start of something wonderful.  I loved Skiffy and always will.

Anyway, so about the people who kept me at Laurier.  There were four of them, actually.

The first was in my German class and an archaeology major, as well (because learning a third language in a second language you barely understand is a fine idea, my friends!)  But despite all the classes we shared, I didn't notice her until one day in the cafeteria, near condiments.  She was wearing an "Excalibur" shirt.  I had no clue who the people on it where, but I was a fan of King Arthur, and I liked the look.  So I complimented her on the shirt.  She thanked me and asked if I liked Excalibur.  I said of course I did (I do love King Arthur).  She then offered to lend me comics, which she will admit to this day that it is something she never does (after almost fifteen years of friendship, I can attest to that).  She has been referred to in this blog before, as roomy, since she's currently (or again, whatever), my roomy.  But because it's now her official name, I'll give her a capital "R" - Roomy.  Makes it more official.

Roomy introduced me to her high school friend, Ren.  Ren was quiet and shy and oh-so very tall, and a hoot to be around, so the three of us had a ball.

Meanwhile, on my quest to make more friends, I went to the archaeology club meeting and decided, for some unknown reason, to sit in the third seat of the front row, in a four seat row (I know, I know, sitting in the front row isn't cool, but I'm a keener, what can I say).  Three people came in together.  One short girl with almond-shaped eyes sat beside me, and her tall roommate squeezed in the empty seat on the other side of me (the room was full, they had little choice.  MWA HA HA!)  The tall girl did not squeeze into that seat gracefully.  Her legs went everywhere and so did she.  I made fun of her and we were immediate friends.  Her name is Kat.  And her roommate's name is Wess.

So I had two groups of two friends.  I don't remember the awkward getting to know each other phase.  The next thing I really remember is having a timbits eating contest against Kat, and trying not to choke.  The contest was a tie.

The team, à la felt.
It turned out that all of these friends loved science-fiction as well, and I'm pretty certain that's how the whole group met.  And when we did meet, it was magic.  All five of us hit it off amongst ourselves.  By Christmas, we had taken over the lounge in Kat and Wess' dorm.  We played pool, watched Xena, laughed way too much, teased each other, wrote stories, debated the value of red shirts, and yes, at times we studied.  In second year we all moved in together, except Ren, who was a business student and actually needed more study time than the rest of us delinquents.  And even then, Ren would come live with us in the summers when Kat headed back home for work. The five of us became a team. 

By year 2, we had taken over Skiffy.  And we had a ball.  We all received good grades in school, although I don't remember studying.  By year 3, the club was so active that we won Most Active Club award.  Anime nights, game release parties, Magic the Gathering games, movie nights, Capture the Flag games, storytelling, Kill vs Save Pikachu fundraising events... we did it all.  My brother came down quite a few times to visit (he saved Pikachu with a large donation), and was instrumental in our Final Fantasy VIII launch party (disappointing game, good party!)

Oh, and my team and I played games, watched movies, read books, spoiled plots, watched stars and talked about the future, held each other when family members passed away and made bad jokes on bad days and studied together and oh ya, we shouted at each other, too, and had wicked battles and always made up.  We napped in lounges, made football guys watch soap operas, stole each other's stuff and were just a general chaotic force of nature.  And we loved it.

By Reading Week of our first year in February, Wess and I decided to stay behind on campus and enjoy the week together.  We didn't have the money to take the train home, and I certainly didn't mind.  We had a blast and ate lots of beefaronis.  By the end of first year, my funds were tight.  Roomy's mom, who had never met me before, offered to rent a van, come up to Waterloo to pick me and my stuff up (and her daughter), and drive to Ottawa.  They live in Belleville, so that's three hours (times two) out of their way.  I remember thinking that this family was worth keeping.

And we all did.  Four years later, Ren and I graduated first, and we cried when we left our friends (following a repeat of the timbits eating contest.  Another tie.)  Ren moved  in with my mom and I, and when we both had jobs and could afford to live on our own, we got apartments in the same building.  And a cat!  We undertook our journeys in the "real world" together, trying to find our footing and careers in the vast sea of employment.  When the rest of the girls graduated a year later, we headed down to Waterloo to celebrate with them.  Kat headed back home to Amherstburg, near Windsor. 

Wess came up a couple of years later, and although her family lives in Ottawa, she moved in with me (I'm fun!)  We had a riot.  Just sitting and chatting by candlelight long into the night, convincing ourselves the high school behind our house was haunted, adopting random strays my brother brought into the house (he's useful, that one).

And then Roomy came up to do her PhD at the University of Ottawa, and she moved only an apartment building away.

And Wess moved out, to live with my brother (they shared cooties).  At their wedding, Wess' father joked in his speech that the five of us were together so often that they'd wondered if we were all going on the honeymoon (we didn't.  Cause ew.)

When Roomy's funding was drawing to an end, I invited her to join me in my apartment.  Why not?  It was big and her family's kindness from the end of first year was never forgotten.  How we managed to combine our two apartments into mine still boggles my mind. 

Ren then moved away, to be closer to work, since her commute was long and involved crossing a very full bridge.  With Wess and Ren now living further away, and our apartment developing what we fondly called Lake Bilodeau, we too moved, and we're not too far from our friends again. And we see them regularly, with and without husbands.  Girls' night once every two weeks!

And Kat? Well, she's still in Amherstburg.  She's married to a man she loves.  We all headed down for her wedding, they came up for Ren's wedding (freshly married for almost a year, now).  The best part is that all of the husbands are now like brothers, too (well, one of them IS my brother, technically).

Every time we see Kat, it's like no time has passed at all.  We were still the first she told when she found out she was pregnant, and the first she contacted when she miscarried.  And we all cried with her and toasted the unborn baby's life.  We're all going to be her children's aunties, after all.

All 8.5 team members, husbands and babies.
We see Kat at least twice a year.  We in fact spent a whole week together at a cottage this summer, somewhat but not really midpoint between our hometowns.  That's eight adults and a two-year old toddler, in a five-room cottage.  We had a blast again, and I can't remember a single argument.  And I capsized my roomy into the lake, too!

So that's what I was thinking of when I was writing about what kept me at Laurier.  It was the people.  These four, to be precise.  Other friends came and went, but some people became family.  They became a priority in my life, and I make time for them, no matter what book deadline I'm under or what storytelling gig is coming up.  Nowadays, our families are as mixed as our friendships.  My friends will go out with my mom, we'll celebrate occasions as one big family and we'll share joy and sadness. 

That bond that kept me going through university, that saw me happily going back to it after my first year Christmas, is still very much alive.  No crises or disaster needs to be faced alone, no bitterness swallowed whole, no scream go unheard with my team.  It's a wicked feeling, and it still keeps me going.  Rough days are easier to bear knowing that, although they are not always by my side, with one phone call, one e-mail, one Facebook update, even, they'll still rally and have my back.

We've all grown, changed, pursued different dreams, and I hope we continue to do so, and that our friendship continues to grow, as well.  It got me through university, it got me through other tight spots, and it's nice to feel as though it'll always be there, no matter what.

And that's why I entitled these blog posts "Nostalgia (But not really)."  I'm not feeling nostalgic for something I no longer have, since I still have it.  I don't feel nostalgic for days gone by, since I still have what was best in them.

It's not nostalgia so much as gratefulness for where I am today, and for the people who made it all possible, whether they were aware of it or not.
Art by Roomy