O reencontro de Jan e Sue, sessenta anos depois


Jan e Sue se conheceram nas aulas de escultura do curso de arquitetura, na Universidade Cornell, na década de 50. No texto abaixo, Jan descreve o reencontro, 60 anos depois

Já falei aqui sobre a incrível história de amor de Jan White. Na ocasião, ele havia dito que enviaria a história completa. E cumpriu a promessa.

Abaixo você encontra a mensagem que Jan enviou aos filhos, relatando o reencontro com a ex-namorada, 60 anos depois. Desisti de traduzir o texto, perde completamente a graça. Mas me dei o direito de inserir alguns links.


16 de junho de 2011

Encontro de 60 anos da turma da Universidade Cornell

Boys!  This is about last weekend — nothing new in it, so please put off reading it till you have time and inclination and nothing better to get done. It is another one of those damn long letters from your father.

Last thing I wanted to do was to go back there again — after 60 years? Come on! Sing songs I didn’t know and wear red beanie-hats or some such foolishness because of Class spirit and all that? Obviously we’d have some identification button with our name on it draped around our neck on a red ribbon… oh Gawd!

How many people would show up, anyway? Of the 2500 how many are left? Besides my college only had a few dozen — the elite, of course! If it hadn’t been for Steve, I would have skipped it, but he made me promise and he was organizer-in-chief, so I didn’t want to disappoint him.

I was going to drive (taking it easy) but Christopher persuaded me to take a bus whose existence he discoverd on the internet (it would never have occurred to me!): a campus-to-campus link leaving from the  Club on 44th Street next to Grand Central Terminal. Easy! OK. $150 round trip — within reason. The very word “campus” makes me feel silly. I reserved a room in the dormitory, forgetting I wouldn’t have a private john, which created dressing-complexities at night but it was in a dorm donated by a classmate, hence we of the Class of 1951 were all in there. Hoorah!

Oh my God! Exactly as in a retirement home, here were a battalion of slow-moving oldsters with sticks. One or two with walkers. Several little craft-things with wheels and broadly grinning passengers with silly hats on, festooned in red badges.  Jeezuss Keyrist, stop bulshitting and move damnit and get into the goddam elevator for crissakes! But that all came later. After I got there.

Time out:  As you may surmise, I had had several girlfriends before I met Ruth (Jan’s first wife) , which is usually where Family History begins (besides my old childhood Czech and refugee sagas). Also London ones. Girls? excellent memories! Ha! But now previous true secrets must be revealed to you. A most delightful and quite serious one such girlfriend was Sue, (officially, Suzanne) whom I met in sculpture class and it blossomed into a very pleasant happy time, the way it is supposed to be at that tender idiotic age where you think you’re all grown wise and adult.

Ha, yet again! She lived in luxury and safety in the womens’ dormitory, as all “bobbysoxers” had to at that restricted time. I was lucky enough to be a senior and then a 5th year senior in architecture, so I could “officially“ live” in a cheap hovel off-campus. It was a poor thing but mine own.

It was a simple sun-porch. No heating. Ideal for freezing in an Ithaca winter, but since I rented it in the summer, I didn’t think ahead, same as I didn’t think about the non-john in my dorm room when I reserved it last month. As you know, Ithaca is in the snow-belt. Anyway, we Sue and I had a lot of fun that made the last year up there terrific. She also helped me on my Gambling Casino thesis and that splendid relationship continued a few months after we graduated, but then it slowly disintegrated for who knows what reason. Lost touch. Completely. I knew she had married a cardiologist on Long Island but never knew or probably forgot his name. She went on  to Columbia as I did to get my MS. In my part-time job at the Architectural Forum magazine I got ready for the army, then I met Ruth there…

So all that ancient history was utterly forgotten, but this Reunion nonsense came up and this lacuna of my curiosity about “whatever happened to Sue I wonder” got the better of me. Hmmm. So I wrote a letter to the Univ. (Mike got me the correct address) asking them to pass my letter on to her, whoever she had become and wherever she might be found on their alumni lists. No answer from them, also no answer from her, of course. OK, too bad, must be dead by now or in a wheelchair or something… that’s the way things go in life. And I put my curiosity away and that was that. No problem. Basta.

OK, back to the story: Train to New York, and then I had an hour to spend before the bus at 12:30. So I went to the bar at the top of the stairs leading out to Vanderbilt Avenue in GCT (I know it has a name but who remembers it? Some boxer or something.) Ordered a nice salad and coffee and had the luxurious balcony to myself to meditate on how the world had changed for the better since the first time I knew Grand Central Terminal… when I worked in the architects’ office on Park and 40th a couple of blocks away…  what a privilege to live in the US! I wallowed in satisfaction — also brought on by the perspective of the 60th, of course. It is such a luxury to consider Before and after (if you are lucky enough!).  The bus ride was luxuriously splendid, four comfy hours plugged into my i-pod. Boy am I ever with-it. Went through the Lincoln Tunnel and emptied out onto those wigglywiggly curves on the NJ side — hadn’t been there for a good forty years — used to drive there from Washington in my little red MG to visit Ruth when I was in the army, dear God, nothing has changed! OK, bus:

Got dropped off on  campus, as the brochure promised and now what? Where the hell am I? This isn’t the 1890s Campus that I know — it is somewhere on a hill where the stinking cows used to be in the Agriculture school I think, way up there on the way to Canada or something. Absolutely no recognizable landmarks. Just an enormous empty parking lot. Slight drizzle. Dragging the trundler-case and wielding my stick with a heavy shoulder bag is trickier than you think. The goddam trundler keeps turning over. Cars whizzing by without stopping, inoring to lend a hand to an obviously struggling elderly gent… but a bunch of scruffy children (i.e., graduate students) way over there who might possibly know where Hanes Hall is. Well, one of them thought it might be over there beyond the next two monster buildings on the “meadow”. I spied a corner of a tent, so figured the kid might be right, and thankfully he was. Vaguely. It required scaling dampish grassy knolls that are remarkably unfriendly to my trundler, stick, and shoulderbag balancing act.

Checked in, got my key (what a job it was to get it to open the door), went peepee (at last), put on my bow tie, and made it to the bus to the big-deal formal dinner for our class that is being held in the stately classy self-important Hall with flags and portraits around it. Its impression is a bit less classy because you have to get a stupid ticket… oh well. So far I didn’t know a single soul, recognized  no names, and was running out of witty generalizations of small talk about the vicissitudes of aging. What am I going to do with  with a day and a half to go? It was very depressing in every way. Then to climb up the endless stairs to the sort of registration desk where they gave you your déclassé ticket… and then over through the hallway to the cocktail area… and “Hello Jan” — oh my God, who is that standing there with a broad grin on her face? I was so unprepared that for a moment I didn’t recognize her. (I thought she was dead). Then that smile and the familiar voice just flattened me. Not literally — I pride myself on my gentlemanly sang-froid. Metaphorically. Good heavens! She said she had no idea that I was coming, but was ready to welcome me if I did and stood at the door just in case and there I was.

Making a long, heartwarming story short: we spent all the next two days’-worth catching up on 60 years’-worth of facts, insights, understandings, explanations. The ancient goodwill of ancient times just completely resurrected in a second. Amazing. The years have taken their toll on her just as they have on me I suppose. Inside, I am  not worse than 35 though). My God she’s gotta be 81. But the happy character and the smile and what all I remember of a 22 year old girl is unchangeable. A delight.

Yes she is married to a Long Island cardiologist (who had all sorts of wise papers published  — I looked him up on Google), who couldn’t come because he is not very mobile any more (tell me about that!). He also had a quadruple bypass, poor devil. They have an apartment behind in Manhattan and a house in California where two of their three kids live, so they coast-hop. She told me that her parents were dead set against her carrying on with me because I was not an American. True, I wasn’t one till I became one officially in my uniform in Washington in the Army. To foster our separation was why they sent her for a a 3-week trip to Europe after we graduated, and she maintains that I drove up to Quebec or some place on the St. Lawrence in Canada to pick her up and drive her home to Long Island. I, alas, have absolutely no memory of that, which is weird because that is quite an Act and one ought to remember. Oh, who knows? Or cares.

It was so long ago — yet it was like yesterday when we were talking about it. It was so intimate. Extraordinarily valuable — like an old stone that is newly polished and it sparkles (even though it remains the same old stone). I promised to send her my book just for fun. It turned into a marvelous weekend and I was spared having to small-talk with people I didn’t know or particularly cared to know.

So then Sunday AM she went off in her bus, and I had to wait two hours for mine to  leave, but they ferried me to that stop north in Canada in a jitney, so I avoided the trundler struggle. Sat in the bus listening to good music probably with a stupid grin on my face. So that’s the end of the story. Amazingly happy.

Attached are PDFs which I hope you can open (Jan se refere às fotos publicadas neste post). The ridiculous freezing sun porch is totally unchanged in 60 years. Just better painted. And you must also realize that I am equally unchanged from that young buck, though I gave up the pipe, and my fashionable very long  chain with awards on it. When I got to Architectural Forum magazine, that very first day of my first real job there, I wore my chain with the silly things dangling off it and nobody, but not a soul, made comment. That was the last time I ever had them visible. They have been attached to the elegant Cartier gold chain my dear Clare gave me in 1962 and I always wear it on my dinner jacket waistcoat (except the honorary keys are discreetly hidded into the pocket). Yes, OK, I admit to being ridiculously sentimental. Sometimes being sentimental pays off with happiness.

Love, D


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