A rainy day, ideal for rest and relaxation. We did get out in the morning for a post office, bookstore, and lunch stop, with Matt, and again this afternoon after he left for work for a few groceries and to replace the bike map we left at home. But, with everyone at work, we had a quiet afternoon and early evening.
Memorial Day saw us off early after another wonderful breakfast at our AirB&B hosts. Of course, it was raining to load the car, gas up, and ignore the GPS on the county roads until we got northeast to Hwy 63 and U.S. 18.
One of our daughters has a friend in Clermont, the “Brick City,” so we took a few pictures cruising down Main Street and stopped at Montauk, the mansion of a former Iowa governor, overlooking the town from the east. A really pretty area.
On through Postville, a true all-American city, where we saw two Hasidic men walking to synagogue on one side of town and what we thought might be two Somali Muslim women crossing the highway on the other side of town, headed toward the cemetery. The cemetery was decked out with large American flags spaced throughout, very impressive.
Over the Mississippi for a light lunch at Prairie du Chien, where we asked for the “Twitter version” of the geology behind the region’s “Driftless” designation. Turns out this section of Iowa and Wisconsin was untouched by the glaciers of the last Ice Age, so retain the rugged cliffs on either side of the Mississippi, a contrast to the rolling black dirt farmland left behind as the glaciers retreated, along with the crop of boulders and round rocks that appeared on the surface, pushed up by the spring thaw for many decades after the land was first plowed, and may still in some areas in extreme cold years. Clearance cairns of fieldstone with boulders up to a meter across can still be seen in the corners of farm fields.
Mid-afternoon, we arrived at our son’s house near Madison, where we will spend the next week visiting and, hopefully, bicycling, though the rainy spring weather continues. We finished the day with dinner at P.F. Chang’s, once again in a metropolitan area with overwhelming choices of eateries and shops.
Sunday morning dawned with a downpour that lasted all morning, making a graceful formal entrance problematic. Our hosts left early for church, but with muffins and fruit on the table for us. We found a parking spot as close to the campus student center as possible, and still got wet, despite breaking out our umbrella, something we rarely do in the Pacific Northwest, where it usually rains less aggressively. Since the Internet had gone out at our lodging, probably due to the rain, we dragged everything onto the campus to upload files, then returned the bigger computer to the car before brunch.
After brunch, the graduates, parents, and alumni trekked across campus to the field house. Fortunately, the rain had slowed. One of our own classmates, Ray McCaskey, is the current chairman of the Board of Regents, so he was on the platform to deliver the welcome and to congratulate each graduate as they received their diploma. Our numbers were diminished by now, as only 26 alumni and spouses marched in the processional to represent our 50-year class. At the recessional, we joined the faculty in applauding the graduates as they rejoined their friends and families for the post-commencement reception.
Don and Diane joined us for early dinner at the Bremer Diner downtown and we traded memories and reflected on our current status. Amazing how old friends simply pick up where they left off after a separation of decades.
We started our second day of reunion festivities with a coffee on campus at the library coffee shop, skipping the morning’s lecture on new outreach beyond the campus, through internet and other means. So, the first item on our social agenda was lunch, which included brief and not-so-brief introductions by each alumnus, so the lunch stretched well beyond the 2:00 schedule for group photos.
After the group photo, we took a few photos of close associates, then parted ways, as our friends had family obligations this evening in nearby Cedar Rapids. We, however, relaxed in one of the lounge areas in the student center and chatted with other alumni and spouses until time for the formal social, skipping yet another event, open house at the college president’s residence. The effort to rush from event to event seemed overwhelming.
The evening dinner was excellent, and good conversation. We had originally not intended to go, thinking the event was primarily for graduates and families, but signed up late after noting that the event was primarily for teacher awards and to acknowledge our reunion, with some faculty and the board of regents in attendance.
A fair number of alumni indicated they would not take part in the graduation ceremonies, as they had other events with family or former students to attend. We also had a conflict, with our great-grandson’s graduation in New Mexico this week and celebration tonight, but much too far away to participate in both, even partly. This being Memorial Day weekend, others had cemetery rounds to make across the state.
Today, we attended on-campus events: a talk about how the student population demographics are changing, from the admissions department, then a guided tour of the campus, mostly new buildings or buildings that have been radically remodeled since our “brightest days.” The radio station, KWAR, once backstage at the old theater building, is now in the new McElroy center, in a much smaller space in the digital age, and a televison studio has been added across the hall.
We had lunch in the new (to us) student meal center. The remodeled and expanded facility is laid out very much like the facility at Western Washington University, where the 1913 Association of Northwest Weaving Guilds conference was held. We opted out of the bus tour of the town, instead joining conversations among fellow alumni. The topics were germane to our common age–retirement, keeping engaged in the things that matter to us, and downsizing and uncluttering 50 years of accumulated “stuff.”
The day ended with a dinner at the banquet room atop the community health center a few blocks from the campus, with continued socialization.
The curious part of a reunion is that, in college, I didn’t associate with a large number of my classmates: Don and I were the only two Physics majors in our class, and we took many of our core liberal arts classes out of sequence with the rest of our class. Also, many of the returning members of our class for this reunion are retired Lutheran ministers, with whom we shared few, if any, classes. I spent most of my non-class time either running the cafeteria dish-washing machine or behind the microphone at the radio station, out of sight. Don was more recognizable as the photographer for the campus newspaper and yearbook. But, we found that we now have much in common with our classmates in retirement, though our life experiences have been very different.