Perhaps much to the relief of some of the readers of my blog, this essay is my last on the three college 25th reunions I have attended over the years. My purpose in writing this series, Dear Reader, is to chronicle how much one aspect of the world I come from has changed during my lifetime, and—in my view—for the better . . .
Vassar Class of 1985 25th Reunion
Vassar Class of 1985 25th Reunion
In addition to coming from a family where Yale figures prominently among the men, Vassar figures prominently among the women. My father’s mother, known as Granny Darling, went to Vassar (class of 1913) and initiated the first Yale/Vassar marriage in my family when she married my grandfather, Yale class of 1911. She dearly hoped that one of her offspring would continue the tradition. My Aunt Mary (her daughter), Vassar class of 1941, was the first to frustrate that wish when she married outside the fold (headstrong girl!), and my father disappointed, too, when he married my mother, Sarah Lawrence class of 1943. After both of my Vassar-educated cousins (classes of 1967 and 1972) failed to marry Yale men, Granny then looked, with mounting desperation, to her two grandsons with Yale potential (my older brother Frecky and me) to remedy this unfortunate situation. She was further frustrated when Frecky (Yale class of 1974) married a Brown graduate shortly after finishing Yale.
An early postcard of Vassar's Main Building, taken prior to
when the later porte-cochère was removed
I was, then, her remaining hope for such a felicitous union. More than once when I was an undergraduate at Yale my Granny Darling gently admonished me to be sure to “look up a nice Vassar girl” in the hopes of achieving her goal. Unfortunately, Granny Darling died before I graduated from Yale and long before I met, and then married, Boy Fenwick, Vassar class of 1985.
Granny Darling was in the Vassar Daisy Chain in 1911
around the time this photograph was taken
Image courtesy of Mount Holyoke Archives
I can just imagine hearing my dear Granny’s reaction upon learning that one of her Yale-educated grandsons had indeed married a Vassar graduate (“At last! What joy!”), followed by her surprise when she learned that I had, in fact, married a Vassar Guy and not a Vassar Girl (“He married WHAT?!”). I am fairly confident that Granny would have eventually come around after her initial shock wore off, since at least it is a Yale/Vassar union after all . . . it’s just not exactly how she had envisioned it.
The main gate entry onto the Vassar campus
Image courtesy of US GenWeb
So when I joined Boy at his Vassar 25th reunion last year, I did so more than solely as his spouse, but with an added appreciation of that college’s history, traditions, and its meaning to my family. I enjoyed myself at his reunion, and I had a lot of fun there meeting his college friends and seeing the places on campus where he had once lived, studied and frolicked. I also thought of my dear Granny Darling and the other Vassar women in my family when I walked around the campus, and I felt a pleasant connection with them and to the school that extended beyond the pleasure that I took in joining Boy there as he and his classmates celebrated.
Even though Boy graduated from college only six years after I did, his experience at Vassar was quite different from mine at Yale. For one thing, the majority of his classmates were female (55% to Yale’s 40% when I was there), which is not surprising, given its history. Also, his classmates were a somewhat more diverse group of people than mine had been at Yale, at least they appeared to me at his reunion. Finally, attitudes towards being gay had relaxed considerably by the time he enrolled at Vassar, and he was out as a gay man from the moment he arrived there as a freshman.
I think this is more of what my dear Granny Darling had in mind...
As I sat at our table under the large white tent during the big class dinner at Boy’s 25th reunion, I felt glad to be there with him and his friends who welcomed me with civility and good humor. I also felt a connection with my dear Granny Darling, and was amused that her wish for another Yale/Vassar marriage had finally come true, albeit not quite how she had planned it. And I felt very fortunate, indeed, that the world had evolved in my lifetime to such a point that I could happily find myself there with my beloved spouse, under the circumstances that I did.