Pittsburgh to Grinnell to Help Plan My 50th College Reunion and Back

Fri, 2013-01-04 02:23 am | By Liane Ellison Norman ’59

 

Liane Ellison Norman ’59 wrote this poem about planning her 50th Grinnell College Reunion, held in 2009.

Eight hundred and ten miles each way,
a journey to the center of the country,

Interstates 79 to 70 to 74 to 80. We left
in 5 a.m. dark, fog thickening in hollows

of West Virginia, fanning out fall light
in Ohio, heading flat through Indiana

and Illinois fields of corn and soy, gentle
hills of Iowa. I remembered how I, a girl

of Wasatch Mountains loved Iowa,
alfalfa smell, silos, barns, Angus cattle grazing

mid-western houses with their generous
porches. Remembered how it felt to find

it was fine for a girl to have a mind.
I felt the campus like a soft, old shirt,

trees shading gracious brick and stone
buildings, some conflated in my memory

with others. Elegant new science center,
student union, dorms, all spilling students,

their unguarded piles of backpacks, bristle
of bicycle spokes and pedals, unlocked, around

each door, My classmates – their remembered
lineaments – were old. I was unaccountably

surprised – I don’t think how old I am,
though occasionally I come upon myself

in a shop window’s glass and wonder
who the shapeless old lady is. Drove home,

the same route reversed, among the jostling
trucks. By the time I’d parked, walked

the familiar fading garden, opened the door
to our house, I was still shaking