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Letter Box


A letter from an alum reflecting on Reunions

May 15, 2003

I had just found an oldies station somewhere in northern Jersey when I heard the unmistakable first chord of Springsteen’s "Born to Run." My Jeep’s air conditioning was down and so were all the windows. I cranked up the volume, threw back my head, and sang into the wind.

You see, I was driving to my 15th reunion, and "Born to Run" was the unofficial theme song of the men’s cross-country team. Our all-night parties were infamous. Proud of our endurance, we all tried to be the last one left standing. When Springsteen’s anthem played, though, the party was over. We’d lock arms and belt the chorus so they could hear us at Rutgers. I never ran varsity, but they gave me a letter after four years for just showing up.

I crossed Lake Carnegie as the sun set and parked in the same lot where I parked my AMC Matador senior year. I walked up the hill past my freshman dorm in New New Quad and instinctively looked to see which friend’s lights were on. I checked in at reunion headquarters, bought my orange beer band, and stayed up ‘til two with a bunch of hockey players I never knew in school.

I crashed in my assigned Witherspoon single and woke to the sound of dumpsters, just like senior year, when they were renovating the U-Store and parked one under my window in Blair. My friends used it to climb into my room and attack me with shaving cream. I took a shower with leftover soap and got scalded when somebody flushed. I listened to an art lecture, attended an alumni-faculty forum, visited my carrel on C floor, listened to close harmony in the arches, and wandered through Prospect Garden. I walked silently through the Chapel, where I had asked for help graduating when, late in the spring, finishing my thesis looked impossible. I tried to visit my sophomore room in Little with the great window seat but the strange metal door was locked. Old friends arrived, but I ended up staying up past midnight with new ones telling glory day stories, some even true.

Saturday I hiked with O.A., watched my old roommate play ultimate frisbee, did the fun run in tennis shoes, ate at the class luncheon, marveled at old crushes, and marched in the P-rade. That night I played beer pong at Colonial and danced until dawn at Tiger. I waded in the Woo School fountain just like after finals, and yelled “1901 blows” from first entry Henry one more time. I walked on the golf course behind Princeton Inn and remembered stealing kisses in the moonlight. At six o’clock I found myself at the WaWa buying coffee instead of cookies and ice cream. I held the door for a pretty alumna back for her tenth and vowed to meet her there again in five years. After breakfast on Nassau Street, friends loaded me with more coffee and sent me home having pulled yet another Princeton all-nighter.

You see, I wasn’t sure I’d make it to my fifteenth. Eight months after my tenth, I was diagnosed with metastatic testicular cancer. After surgery and chemotherapy, I was in remission. Now they say I’m cured. So I’m going back for my twentieth this month, and I’ll be back at the WaWa at six Sunday morning. I don’t expect the alumna to show, but a promise is a promise.
Life, like reunions, is mostly about just showing up.

Bill Plonk ’83
Waynesboro, Va.

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