Saturday, August 8, 2015

SNAK Reunion

I recently returned from a special weekend—SNAK Reunion. SNAK as in “Sophomores Needing a Key,” not of the food variety. Let me explain.

Sophomore year of college, four friends and I all requested to live on the same hall but ended up getting a bad draw in the housing lottery. We were placed in a freshman dorm again, subject to all the freshman rules including needing to request an after-hours key if we wanted to enter the dorm past midnight (this was, after all, Wake Forest University in the early 80s). Not to be deterred, we dubbed ourselves SNAK (in part because we did indulge in our share of late night munchies) and proceeded to get around the rules by surreptitiously propping the door open, accessing the dorm through an underground tunnel, or other creative means sometimes involving Minnie Mouse. I need only to pay a visit to my daughter’s college dorm to be reminded of how times have changed.

The SNAK women—Cynthia, Lisa, Sonja, Jennifer, and I— met on our freshman hall and quickly forged a bond in our pursuit of fun, among other things (and academic success too,
 of course). These are women with whom I can say words like hard tack, sheep turd, crusty, lens cap, and shimmy, triggering the same memories and uncontrollable laughter. These are women with whom I not only laughed, but cried, struggled, questioned, and grew.

Although college, alas, came to an end, our friendship has continued, despite our living in different locations spanning Florida to Vermont. One way we have kept in touch is through SNAK gatherings at Cynthia and her husband Tom’s cabin near the NC/VA border in a place known as Wildwood. 

Tom (who also went to Wake) grew up nearby and his great grandfather built the rustic-chic cabin in 1928 as part of a fishing club. Cynthia has added her mark, 

including the 1954 cherry red tractor she inherited from her Granny Ruth. 

SNAK gatherings have happened pretty much every summer at Wildwood over the past twenty years, although I’ve only been able to make it to a couple of them. The last time I went was ten years ago, when the cabin was stuffed full with husbands and children numbering twenty-three people in total.

This year, only three husbands made it, and three kids (Faye, and Cynthia and Tom’s daughters), but a good time was had by all.

We arrived late Friday afternoon, except Lisa who rolled in around midnight having driven up from Florida with characteristic determination. At around 8:15, we realized we hadn’t even thought about making dinner, so caught up we were in conversation. But we pulled it together in less than an hour, thanks to Sonja’s CEO skills (evident in college and now a reality), and enjoyed a delicious salmon dinner. The next morning, Sonja commandeered a kitchen crew at the outdoor stove 

and whipped up a huge Southern breakfast of sausage, eggs, grits, gravy, and biscuits.

Then we were ready to sit for a spell. But not for long. Lisa and I went kayaking, 

some went for a run, and then later all the women made it across the lake to the dock on the other side. Chris and Tom swam across the lake too, and the next generation sunned themselves on the roof of the boathouse. 

Craige (who also happens to have been Chris’s roommate in grad school) relaxed.

For Happy Hour that afternoon, Tom turned over two minnow buckets and placed a board on top for a makeshift table. As tree frogs chirped overhead and the Carolina sun reflected off the lake, I realized how much I miss my friends. At one point Jennifer put on her playlist of heavily funkified dance music from that era and the memories came tumbling back.

The floor plan of the cabin is somewhat like a dorm, especially downstairs where Lisa, Sonja, Jennifer, and I were staying. As we flowed from room to room and shared a common bathroom, I wondered where the past 30 years had gone. Time, as it has a way of doing, had collapsed them. And even though the five of us only lived together for two short years, those years--chockful of new and exciting experiences as they were--seem long and brimming with memories. This is not to discount the 30 intervening years, themselves full with marriage and family, work and living life. But those years of emerging adulthood are especially vivid because it's the time when who you are starts to solidify. Now squarely in our middle adulthood, we’re all still very much the same, just more distilled versions of ourselves.

Dinner that night was flank steak on the grill, which like the salmon was a big step up from the fare we cooked up in the dorm kitchen.

and lots of wine. Over the meal we made plans for a 50th birthday celebration, just the girls, one year overdue. At this point it’s looking like Costa Rica, and the wheels are in motion for a trip this winter. All I ask, ladies, is that the place has a good outdoor shower where I can suds up, preferably on the beach.

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