When I graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 2000, I didn’t give much thought to what I was leaving. My experiences at MHC weren’t all strawberries and champagne. I applied to transfer my first-year, staying only because my parents let me know that a transfer meant no study abroad in Ireland. After graduation, I moved into a shared house with three other alums. I was ready to start a new life, and thought MHC was part of my past. While transitions are hard, and I cried a lot, it wasn’t like I wanted to stay.
I wanted to take on the world.
This weekend, I “watched” my favorite tradition of all time, Laurel Parade, pop up throughout Instagram and Facebook. Laurel Parade is magic: Saturday before graduation, an alumnae parade walks through campus. All returning alums and the current class wear white to honor the suffragist movement. There are accents of red, yellow, green and blue: each class has their own color, sort of like Hogwarts. The graduating class walks last, carrying a laurel chain, and pass through all the other classes before placing the laurel chain around founder Mary Lyon’s grave. This means that when you graduate, you’re pretty much walking through time, passing the classes who gradated 2 years, 5 years, 10 years before you. It’s like you can see your future. And now that my class is the middle, it’s also like I can see my past.
(There’s a bagpipe player, too, for reasons I don’t really get, but absolutely love.)
I only started to “get” what MHC really gave me at my 10th reunion. I knew I’d stay in touch with my closest MHC friends, and that we’d show up for each other through celebrations and heartbreak. I didn’t know some of my closest friends would be MHC alums I met after graduation. I didn’t know I’d end up marrying another alum! I couldn’t imagine the Over 40 Facebook group, or that the Harvest sandwich from Tailgate picnic is my #1 comfort food. I’m old enough that I don’t love the “MoHome” moniker, but I do agree that the air feels different on campus and I breathe a little easier each time I’m there.
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There was extra sparkle in the pictures this year. Not only was there finally gorgeous, perfect New England sunshine, the class color for the Class of 2019 is yellow. Everything looked and felt gilded and special. Seeing these strong, inspired and confident women gave me hope after a long and difficult week that saw attack after attack on fundamental women’s rights across the United States.
Seeing these pictures of Laurel Parade reminded me that I want to take on the world and that it’s not too late.
Yesterday, I met a young woman who is starting her MHC journey this fall. She is part of the Class of 2023. She’ll graduate wearing yellow, too. The reach of MHC alum network continues to surprise and humble me. Afterall, joining the MHC alum community starts when you pick up that Laurel Chain and carry it with your friends.
You just don’t realize you never put it down.
See you next year, Class of 2000. 💙 🦁