Thursday, November 17, 2011

Borrowed Earrings, and a Love Letter to my Bryn Mawr Friends

(This post was partly inspired by Bella's prompt this week for the 52 Photos Project, which was to photograph something you've borrowed or would like to borrow.)

Five and a half years ago, I attended my fifteenth college reunion, and sometime during the weekend, I admired my friend Giulia’s earrings. Giulia always has gorgeous jewelry, and this particular pair of earrings was made of green amber and silver. She gave them to me—for no particular reason, except that I expressed my love for them, and she loves me. I protested a bit, but she insisted that I take them. So I agreed to take them on loan, and over the next five years, I thought of her—of course—every time I wore them.

This past spring was an especially hard one, but it was also my twentieth college reunion, and I knew I needed to go, because my college friends are some of the dearest, steadiest, most beloved people in my life. And when I packed to head east, I made sure Giulia’s earrings were with me. I figured it was the obvious time to return them.

I’m not sure Giuls remembered that I had the earrings until I handed them to her, but when I gave them back, she proceeded to search through the jewelry she’d brought with her until she found this pair:

She decided I needed to take them home with me, and of course, this time I agreed. At Bryn Mawr, we like to joke that once we’ve done anything twice, it’s a tradition, and so Giulia and I have started our own little earring loan tradition. She picks a pair for me to borrow for five years, and I bring them back at the next reunion.


It’s difficult to put into words just exactly how much Giulia and all my other friends from college mean to me. I’ve thought of them pretty much every day since last May, and the energy of their love washes over me frequently. That love has always been there, ever since college, but I think something about this particular reunion marker really hit many of us hard, in the best possible way.

I had a moment during the weekend, in our class meeting, when I looked around the vividly familiar dorm living room, and saw all those vividly familiar faces—the faces of people who are incredibly close to me, and the faces of people I really barely know, except that I’ve “known” them in some way for the last twenty-four years. That’s more than half my life.

Faces you’ve known for more than half your life mean something—something significant. They may not be the faces of dear friends, and yet—they’re not at all strangers. They’re something more than community, even, though they’re certainly that. Perhaps they’re like an odd kind of extended family, people you feel connected to, people who share some vitally important part of your history, even if you really don’t know a whole lot about who they are, or what their daily lives are like.

And then there are the people who actually are my dear friends. I don’t know that there are really words that can adequately describe the feelings of nourishment, love, acceptance, gratitude, comfort, support that I receive from this group of people. They’re home to me.

I was stunned, several times during the weekend, to realize that these friends have always seen me, since I was seventeen, in ways that it took me many, many years to see myself. They knew what was in me and who I could be long before I did. Simply because they love me, and they were paying attention. I certainly hope I’ve been paying enough attention to be able to see each of them in such a deep way.

At the end of the weekend, a small group of us went for brunch at a local diner before dispersing to our separate parts of the world for another five years. (We’ve done this Sunday brunch thing at the last two reunions now, so you know what that means….)

I was sitting in the diner booth, stirring my coffee and listening to Giulia, who was sitting next to me and telling a story in her inimitable, animated, gorgeous, larger-than-life way. I turned to look at her, and it took my breath away. Every bit of her was so familiar and dear—her beautiful face and smile, her mannerisms, her speech patterns and laugh. I know them so well that I can call them to mind in a heartbeat. Just thinking of her calms me, makes me feel loved and joyful and lucky.

And I’m incredibly fortunate. Because Giulia isn’t the only friend I feel this way about—I have a whole pile of friends like that where she came from. And I won’t list them here—I’ll let Giuls stand in for them all—but I trust they know who they are. And I hope they know how very, very, very much I love them.


  1. Thnx, Amy. I'm still turning over this stone of truth in my own life: "to realize that these friends have always seen me, since I was seventeen, in ways that it took me many, many years to see myself. They knew what was in me and who I could be..." That feels, at times, unbelievable, and yet... totally believable when I think of how I've felt since adolescence about certain friends of mine. Add to that the strange light in which we look back on our teenage selves (mine is a harsh light, but sometimes picks up interesting colors)... and then, the kernel of knowledge that our teen selves are still inside us, somewhere. Deep within rings inside rings inside rings. xox

  2. What a beautiful tradition you & Giulia have. I think it's common for most of us to feel as if we walk unseen in this world. For me, it was a very common thought until that one day when the girl working the cash register at the grocery store smiled at me and said "back again?". That moment sort of stunned me into feeling like.. ok, so maybe I'm not a wall flower after all?
    -Just as you have watched and witnessed your friends & unknown classmates, they have witnessed you. It's difficult to take in and comprehend and I think it's because of the pre-existing notions of smallness we tend to carry.
    I see you. People that know you & love you - see you. Even the people we pass on the street see you & wonder about your story.
    I love what you shared today. xo

  3. Blowing you kisses across the continents :*

  4. Your narration is very touching, thank you.

  5. Such a nice line about people seeing you in ways you can't see yourself. Yet.
    I am loving you with much more love.

  6. I truly enjoy the post reunion brunch. You are indeed one of the most beautiful, intelligent people in the world. Much love.
    Dr. CAT

  7. This is about you. And about everyone. And this is (sort of) about me too. I saw you first and I NAMED you to be a writer (A. Morgan .......)and then willed you to Bryn Mawr while you sat on my lap in the front seat of a VW. Remember? This is true --- I always knew. And you are welcome. (Please Send cash).

    Love you, what you do and how you do it.

  8. Aw, Mama, it's so TRUE! You did! (Really, people, she literally named me so that "when [I] was published someday" I could use the name A. Morgan Radbill. And she literally looked at me when I was a baby and thought, "She can go to Bryn Mawr if she wants to." Weird, weird, weird, but totally true. And she never told me the Bryn Mawr thing until the day my acceptance packet showed up my senior year of high school.)

    (And I love you too, Mom. xo)

  9. Lovely tradition... Years ago a friend & I did a similar thing with wrapping paper — carefully unwrapping/reusing it the next time gifts were exchanged — but alas it eventually got too small and the tradition disappeared. Methinks I should start it up again!

  10. Dear Amy, I'm sorry to hear you were having rough times this spring, and I'm more sorry that I didn't know about them until now. I'm glad to be back in touch, and I loved seeing you. Blessings, Kalyani

  11. Amy - love this moistened my eyes & I feel like it is part of a conversation I so value having with you over time. Thank you. I would say more, but I'm one-handed-Sebi-typing.

    (And,PS, your new nest looks so welcoming & warm.)

    And PPS to both you & Lis, the blog is really hitting the inspiration/appreciation spot for me this morning... thank you & nice job, bloggers!

  12. It is so true what you say about those Bryn Mawr friendships.
    My "in case of emergency" contact is someone I first met during International Student Orientation in 1991, and we have "invented" many traditions over the 20 yrs we've known each other.
    Also true how I can pick up after not seeing someone after 4+ years, and it's like we never parted. Those 4 (sometimes intense) years created a lifetime's worth of common references.
    I love my Bryn Mawr Buddies too!
    TMK, Class of '95.

  13. I love you, Amy.

    You did that for me -- knew me in a way/ways I didn't know myself yet. One of the times I'm thinking of wasn't when we were at BMC together, but in another org years later, when we were all dealing with how to deal with conflict there. :) Your words reflected back to our time at Bryn Mawr, and when I thought about them again later, definitely reflected an inner truth about myself I hadn't seen yet, and helped me put things together in a way I wouldn't have yet, otherwise. This was years ago, now, but still stands out as a moment of that exact kind of sisterhood. So thanks, again. *hugs*

  14. p.s. In all kinds of synergy, here's a piece of writing that, way down the line, kind of came out of that conversation: