When I was in Victoria for an education conference last week, I met up with my old friend and roommate from my undergrad days at the university there. Claire and I had lived near each other just outside of Penticton during high school so we hung out a bit then, but we became best friends when we found ourselves living next door to each other in residence at U.Vic. We then went on to room together for two more years in various one bedroom apartments! Claire was studying to be a primary school teacher. I recall her sitting at our dining room table in the evenings working on lesson plans. My plan was to do two years of university French so I’d qualify to be a stewardess (the term back then). We worked hard at school, but we spent an equal amount of time at the Sting, a night club downtown. It was after all the disco era.
We took a walk down memory lane while I was in Victoria. First we went for lunch in Cadboro Bay, remembering how we had skipped off to the beach one sunny April day when we should have been studying for exams. We never would have remembered that day if we had just studied. Then we walked the beautiful campus together.
I remember composing a poem for a friend of mine who had passed away. It was inspired by this campus. He would fit so well in this timeless place, where life moves on at an even pace. I can see him now moving down the path, chewing innocently on life’s grapes of wrath. Okay, maybe not the best poetry, but it captured the feeling of this place. Back then the pace of life was much slower. No one had cell phones. There were no computers. Claire and I didn’t have a TV. I remember watching the mini series Roots at our neighbour’s house. We had time for each other, for building a lasting friendship.
It’s been 34 years since I graduated. When I stepped onto that campus last week, at first I was disoriented, but soon I found familiar ground. In many ways time had stood still. They’ve tucked a few new buildings here and there inside the road that rings the campus, and a few more outside, but the small, lush, intimate quality of this university is intact. I spotted runners dashing through the forest on the same chip trail that I ran on many times. Surprisingly, the pool where I spent hours doing laps, teaching swimming and lifeguarding hasn’t changed. Well, okay, the high dive is gone, but the check in and towel area looks identical. Our old residence (Margaret Newton) is still there as is the cafeteria. We recalled that whenever we had hot dogs for lunch, we would have hot dog soup the next day. Yup, chopped up wieners in a milky broth. Our favourite lunch was cottage cheese with fruit cocktail and a muffin. Thank goodness the food on campus has improved quite a lot since then, at least if the little café in the MacLaurin building is any indication. When Claire and I moved off campus all those years ago, I learned a lot about cooking from her and still use some of her recipes today.
Claire retired last year. I know from being her friend that she has all the qualities that make a wonderful teacher. She is loyal, kind, patient, fun, adventuresome, smart, creative, curious, a good listener. I’m sure her students and fellow teachers miss her.
I don’t think either of us ever could have predicted my unusual career path, nor that I would be back at school at this stage of life, in education, in a much faster paced world.
I haven’t seen Claire since the last time I was in Victoria nearly seven years ago, but once again we just picked up where we left off. Claire emailed me yesterday to let me know it was Best Friends Day. I am glad I went over to the Island early, so I could spend time with this dear friend.