It’s a Thursday night at Good Time Charley’s. Well, technically, it’s Friday morning, but my table is too busy catching up to notice the time. We’re a strange group by Ann Arbor standards, tied together not by a shared freshman dorm or major or fraternity, but by a collective love for Washington, D.C.
Last January, we left our friends in Ann Arbor to live with 24 relatively random strangers in the nation’s capital, started interning across the District and learned our way around the city. This January, the Michigan in Washington Winter 2014 cohort is back at Michigan, substituting fishbowls for the $8 Whale Pails we grew to love at our favorite Thursday-night spot, Sign of the Whale. Our last get-together was a poster session and post-D.C. dinner in September coordinated by the program; our group’s Facebook discussions have revolved around organizing a reunion ever since. Finally, this past Thursday night at Charley’s emerged as the winner for our anticipated reunion.
Seeing these people again brings back memories of running around the monuments, going to Wizards and Caps games, reliving freshman year through weekly dorm parties and inevitably ending up at Madhatter every Friday and Saturday night. In D.C., we spent Saturday afternoons checking out the cherry blossoms and watching the giant panda cub at the zoo. We all tried sneaking out of the Monday-night speaker series after grabbing free dinner, with mixed success. We spent weeknights sharing stories about our internships while making dinner. Getting stopped on your way to class because the President was headed home and the roads needed to be cleared was normal while living four blocks from the White House.
Seeing this crew also reminds me of what is to come this fall: squishing into the train on early-morning commutes, buying only as many groceries as two reusable bags will hold because six blocks stand between Whole Foods and the refrigerator, and coordinating weekend plans because in a big city everyone doesn’t live within a 20-minute walk. College is ending soon, and no matter how excited I am to head back to D.C., I still wish I could freeze time and keep everything the way it is, with a blank planner providing a lot of time to meet up with friends outside of the few random natural science and humanities credits I took in order to get my diploma.
The conversation turns to what we plan on doing once we graduate, because it’s second semester of senior year and it is impossible not to get asked this at least once a day. For some, it’s law school. It’s back to D.C. for others. A few are headed to jobs across the United States. In a few months, when we’ve settled into our new roles, the conversation will focus on how we plan to meet back up.
I can’t help but think about this reunion at Charley’s as a trial run for what happens after graduation, when we all leave the Big House together one last time. We’ve struggled to meet up on campus for months, and most of us still live in Ann Arbor — imagine how much more difficult it will be to see each other once we graduate.
This isn’t the only circle of friends I’ll be missing after graduation, either. I have my Ford School friends too, my sorority sisters and my current roommates who I’ve known since freshman year. Each of these groups will try to make it back to Ann Arbor for a football game this fall, but how many people won’t be able to make it because of a work obligation, a pre-planned vacation or a grad-school paper? What happens when I’m the one who won’t be able to go?
A lot of the memories we laughed about at Charley’s on Thursday haven’t surfaced in a while. I don’t see these people every day in class or at work or at home, so I forget about the stupid stuff we did until we start to reminisce. I wonder what other things I don’t remember – what other memories from living in my sorority house or in South Quad I don’t think about until I see my friends and we start chatting. After graduation, when I don’t see these people for months on end, will the memories still come back to me as vividly when we finally get together? These are the moments that make college more than just a collection of classes and clubs. I don’t want to forget them.
Katie Koziara can be reached at email@example.com.