“Is it strange for you, working at Wellesley?” I get this question a lot from fellow members of the golden class of ’99. “Not at all,” I reply, explaining how my life as an editor and yogurt-streaked mother of two is so different from my existence as a purple-hair-streaked English major that it feels like my student years took place in a distant land. A land without the Lulu, smartphones, and cold-shoulder tops.
And yet, there are peculiar moments when time collapses, and I am transported to the late ’90s. Sometimes it’s brought on by a smell, like in the main stairwell in Clapp Library. (What is that smell, and why is it so persistent?) Or a very specific place, like when I’m checking dorms after reunion and open the door to Cazenove 312, my eyes filling with tears. And often, this uncanny phenomenon is brought on by the weather, especially large snowstorms.
For alumnae of my vintage, the most memorable Big Snow was the April Fools’ Day storm, which dumped more than two feet of snow on the unsuspecting Boston area. At the time, Wellesley was notorious for never closing due to weather, but early on April 1, 1997, we all received a voicemail on our dorm-room landlines from President Diana Chapman Walsh ’66 herself saying that the impossible had happened, and the College was closed for the day. (Remember dorm-room phones? They were discontinued in 2009, FYI.) Was Diana playing an April Fools’ Day joke on the student body, we asked each other? No, we concluded, Diana didn’t seem like the type to make prank phone calls.
Recently, some of my classmates and I shared fond memories of that day—traying down Severance Hill, hitching rides in cars with four-wheel drive to the Mobil Mart on Route 16 for snacks, watching Goonies in the Caz TV room, posing with an obscene snow sculpture that appeared outside Shafer, and not studying for orgo exams as we should have. And, of course, walking around campus, dazzled by the sun sparkling off the snow, marveling at this beautiful place that we were lucky enough to call home.
Now, more than 20 years later, every time I walk onto campus after a blizzard, I still feel like Lucy in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, stepping out of the wardrobe and into the snow-blanketed woods, breathless with the beauty of it all. My life these days doesn’t have much time for stillness and slowing down, but in these moments, I do. Time stops and folds in on itself, I’m 19 again, and everything is fresh and new and spread out in front of me, unmarked and perfect.