Exactly five years and one month ago, nine college graduates sat on cinder blocks outside their empty campus townhouse. After loading cars, turning in their keys and realizing the four years of parties, roommates and little sleep had come to an end the stillness hit. “We’re homeless…” is all anyone could think to say.
This weekend, those nine girls returned to their cherished university for the first milestone reunion since graduating. St. Bonaventure, or “Bonas” as we call it, is a small private school resting amidst the Allegheny Mountains of Western New York. With Walmart as the most popular store in a 60-mile radius and Applebee’s considered the dinner hotspot, the streets around Bonas are, by every definition, streets of a college town. From dorms to cinder blocks to state lines between us, this little tucked away town is where the friendships among these girls once began. They happen to be my best friends, my roots and my core. They are my Bonnies.
Five years and a whole lot of life later, much has changed for us individually, yet somehow everything seems the same. This weekend, the campus opened the townhouses to returning alumni, and we spent three days not only reminiscing about the college days, but living like we had never left. We drank a lot, slept a little, ate from the dining hall and powered our now-older, tiring bodies through a weekend of poor health for the sake of bonding with old friends.
Bonas is a place of relationships. My core group of girlfriends made the trip back, yes, but so did many other alumni and friends. The university offered our student years a few dive bars, a yellow school bus that carried drunks between the bars and campus, and one pizza shop that every student in the school seemed to congregate at around 2:00am. We had small classes, a smelly dining hall and off-campus parties at houses with names like the “Sick House”, “Caddy Shack” and “Club House”. We had few luxuries, but we had everything we needed. We created much of our own fun, and had no choice other than to grow friendships. Regardless of our relationships with one another since graduating, we all returned to campus this weekend for one main reason: to once again celebrate being Bonnies.
Some alumni have settled down since leaving Bonas, and others are just as wild as their college days. A few married, some are in serious relationships and many are still single. We have moved across the country, traveled overseas and some have stayed planted in their hometowns. We are a collective group of house owners, renters, nomads, homebodies, stable career builders and grad students who are living solely off college loans. We are in different places around the country and in life, but we have all grown…and best of all, many of us have not grown apart.
People know me at Bonas. Whether they are my close or seasonal friends, I feel comfortable with them. We feel comfortable with one another. I can act like an idiot, cry when I am sad, talk too much and know I will still be loved for being me. We chose a beautiful university campus, but the relationships among the Bonnies who walked those hilly paths are what made the experience a “Bonaventure experience”. We had few outlets of escape, so we relied on cheep beer and strong friendships to carry us through the long winters. I still keep in touch with several of my professors, and found it completely normal to know that friends spent nights of alumni weekend face planted on the townhouse lawns instead of in their assigned beds. As they say, once a Bonnie, always a Bonnie.
It is inevitable that some of us will come in and out of one another’s lives, but we will continue to keep our couches open for when fellow Bonnies visit our scattered cities. We were, and still are, a close-knit community. Bonas will always connect us, and this weekend proved this to be true. Everyone became so overwhelmed with the excitement of returning to our Alma mater that we barely left one another’s sides – even if it meant staying up until 6:30am to dance in the rain with a blended group of any alumni left standing. Deep down, none of us wanted the weekend to end. So, we stuck by one another, passed around a bottle of champagne and just kept dancing.