Renewing college friendships

By Ande Jacobson

At the beginning of a new year I sometimes think about years past, especially when a year starts off with as much chaos as 2023. Between watching the antics in the U.S. House of Representatives and the series of once-in-a-century storms in California, events can be a little overwhelming sometimes. Rather than dwelling on things that I cannot control or change, I instead ponder where I’ve been, and where I’m going. Sometimes I look a long way back. While I’m not sure what triggered the memory, I recently thought about a few oddly connected occurrences from many years ago stemming from my undergraduate years.

I encountered a set of identical twins in a few of my classes my freshman year, but I didn’t realize they were two different people initially. One of the twins was in my math class fall quarter. His brother was in the follow-on course winter quarter, but it wasn’t until spring quarter when both of them were in the third course in the series that I realized they were two different, related people. After our freshman year, I would occasionally run into one or the other around campus or in a random class. The first odd occurrence happened a few years later when I ran into one of them at a mutual friend’s wedding shortly after graduation.

I had thought that was the end of it until many years later when I was taking a class for work at a vendor’s facility. A colleague from my department who was also in the class asked if I would mind if a friend from his church who happened to work at that facility joined us in the cafeteria for lunch one day. I told him that would be fine. My colleague’s friend was a little late, so he waited until his friend arrived to go through the line while I went ahead, got my food, and scouted out a table. A few minutes later, my colleague and his friend joined me. When they arrived my colleague started to introduce his friend, but before he could get the words out we greeted one another. Having not seen each other for at least 15 years at that point, I asked which twin he was. He told me, and it turned out that he was the same one who had been at our mutual friend’s wedding all those years ago. My colleague was more than a little surprised and wanted to know how we knew one another. We regaled him with stories from our undergraduate days, and the three of us marveled at just how small the world really was.

A few years later, I attended another wedding – the colleague from my work class was getting married. While I expected it this time, sure enough, my old college acquaintance was there. We compared notes to see if there were any upcoming weddings where we might once again cross paths. Spoiler, there weren’t.

While that’s the last time I ran into one of the twins, so far at least, there have been numerous other random college connections over the years. One stands out above the rest.

I wrote several articles about an extraordinary production of Fiddler on the Roof that I had the honor of playing for in 2017. A memorable college connection was tangentially associated with events following that run. A couple of months after the run ended, a large celebration of life for our fiddler was planned. He finished the run, not missing a single performance and playing with incredible virtuosity despite his terminal illness, and the celebration was planned and held while he was still alive to enjoy it. Music was a huge part of his life, so of course that was incorporated into the celebration.

A massive choir was assembled with singers from the show, the church choir where he and his wife attended and sang, and a local community choir that the church choir director also led. A number of additional singers from the community choir who hadn’t been attending the rehearsals for the few weeks before the program joined us on the day of the celebration. To fold everyone in, we had a short rehearsal before the program.

During the break between the rehearsal and the celebration, a woman from the community choir came over to ask my name. She looked familiar, and when she introduced herself it turned out that she was another friend from my undergraduate days who had lived in my apartment complex. We used to get together at my place on occasion to play cards with a few other friends. We hadn’t seen one another since college, and here we were both singing in this combination choir.

Despite the differences and distractions going on in the world these days, it’s nice to take a step back on occasion and appreciate just how small and connected the world can be. Whether through our interests, our family and friends, our communities (large or small), or our professions, we are connected. What we do and who we know at one point in our lives can come back around and crop up in unexpected places. When that happens, it’s fun to renew old friendships.

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