This may be a dull post for those who were not in my class in college (most of you, as far as I know), so read on at your peril.
I went to my 20 year college reunion recently. Over a third of the class of sixty showed up which wasn’t bad given that it was at short notice.
Several surprising things: everyone was almost exactly the same, only grown-up; several of the people I hadn’t spoken to 20 years ago turned out to be very pleasant despite my prejudices at the time; almost everyone has three children; almost everyone is practising as a solicitor; nobody was at all competitive about what he/she was doing. One woman opined that it was far better than her school reunion where, if you hadn’t a site in Kinsale, you were no one. Alright, one man mentioned that he was doing up a house in Goleen, but that’s really not the same thing at all…
One very unsurprising thing: if they were at all interested, most people had a vague idea what others were up to – “My friend A is a friend of your friend the Dutch Mama and I heard you were back in Ireland, kind of thing.” This happens to Irish people all the time. It’s one of the joys and one of the curses of coming from a small country.
I suppose, when I started studying law in college, I hadn’t really thought of it as a vocational subject, more a good grounding. I was wrong there. Aside from me, one man who had become a primary school teacher, one woman who married a well-known hotelier and two or three women who were not working outside the home (dreadful expression but it is important to acknowledge that dealing with toddler tantrums is much more work than hanging round in court could ever be), every single person was working in law and even the women working in the home were qualified solicitors who planned to go back to it when the children were bigger. In fact, even the hotelier’s wife and I had qualified as solicitors, I think on the basis that it was something we could always go back to, if we needed the money. However, the current downturn, is making that look pretty unlikely, should the need arise. Just as well, I couldn’t convey a broom at this stage.
I thought they were a very nice bunch – mostly country solicitors from market towns, the backbone of rural Ireland (that sounds a bit patronising but it’s not meant to be, oh for better writing skills) though only one election agent (to my astonishment, I expected half a dozen). It was like meeting new people in many ways but with something useful as a starting point for conversation. I was surprised how little I knew about my former classmates. I was chatting to one guy and telling him about my husband’s grandfather playing senior hurling for Tipperary (v. exciting recent discovery) and he said that his own father had won two all-Ireland hurling medals with Tipperary. The glory, the glamour. All unknown at the time. True, I did know that one classmate’s mother had been at boarding school with my mother but that was largely due to badgering by her mother and mine rather than any particular initiative on our part. It made me feel that my mother had some justification when she used to drive me demented by asking me the names of the parents of new college acquaintances (“would that be Murphy the chemist?”). I now realise that I have turned into her and I was fascinated by where these people were from and who their parents were and, with any luck, I will live to torture my misfortunate children along similar lines.
What it really brought home to us was how young we had all been. Most of us were 17 when we started college and 20 when we finished. The mature students in the class who we thought were ancient were only 24 or 25. As one former classmate said “what on earth can you be expected to understand about law of all things when you are 17?” I’d say our excellent memories stood us in good stead for the exams but it was probably many years before most of us understood the practical implications of the theories we had learnt.
At about 2 o’clock a select group of us went to a chipper near the pub to do a post mortem of the evening and relive our student past; our conclusions, you will be delighted to hear, were broadly positive. The moral is, go to your reunion, you might like it more than you think.