Monday, June 01, 2015

Big Sign that I've Been Into the Belly of the Beast, or, A Visit to the Hummingbirds' Nest

When asked to comment on being married to a Bryn Mawr woman, E.B. White observed nearly 60 years ago that the "sensations of a Bryn Mawr husband are by their very nature private." If prudent, I would agree, but as E.B. also wrote, "a prudent male wouldn’t have married a Bryn Mawr girl in the first place."

So I am compelled to share some thoughts as a thank you to my lovely wife and her fellow Mawrtyrs for the glimpse this weekend at their experience, at the bolt of fabric unfurling the cloth from which they're all cut. I now know my wife—a woman I know better than any other human on the planet—even better, and I feel as though I've known her Bryn Mawr classmates for years.

Allow me to turn again to E.B. as a jumping-off point; indulge me a couple excerpts from his 1956 essay, "Call Me Ishmael: Or, How I Feel About Being Married to a Bryn Mawr Graduate" (Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin, Summer 1956):

What is there about these women that makes them so dangerous, so tempting? Why, it is Bryn Mawr. As they grow in years, they grow in light. As their minds and hearts expand, their deeds become more formidable, their connections more significant, their husbands more startled and delighted. I gazed on Pembroke West only once in my life, but I knew instinctively that I was looking at a pile that was to touch me far more deeply than the Taj Mahal or the George Washington Bridge.
. . .
You ask me how I feel to have undertaken this union. I feel fine. But I have not recovered from my initial surprise, nor have I found any explanation for my undeserved good fortune. I once held a live hummingbird in my hand. I once married a Bryn Mawr girl. To a large extent they are twin experiences.

This weekend, I visited Bryn Mawr's campus—the nest, the home of the hummingbirds—with the chicks all grown come back, reunited. They'd returned not to roost, although some perhaps had, or will, but rather to buzz their hummingbird buzz. I've held the hummingbird in my hands. I married the Bryn Mawr girl. Every day, she constantly startles and delights. But before Saturday, I'd never visited the nest, never seen where these hummingbirds buzz together. I'm certain they all buzzed before they arrived at Bryn Mawr, and I've seen mine buzz daily for a decade since she spread her wings. But back at Bryn Mawr, they buzz all at once, and there they learned their buzz changes the world.

In the Rockefeller living room—yes, living room, so very Hogwarts, as is fitting for a campus that not only recalls the fictional school but hums with a certain magic all its own—they reconnected and recollected. Amidst a sea of friends and memories, family all, out of the blue, over the buzz suddenly sounds a sprinkling of brightly cheered ancient Greek phrases, ending in the oft-echoed "Bryn Mawr, Bryn Mawr, Bryn Mawr!" Perplexing yet pleasing to the unfamiliar ear, uniting and uplifting to the Mawrtyrs, who even after years away still have years of practice.

In the early afternoon, after quieter lunch conversations concluded, with plates pushed aside and ice cream sandwiches eaten, the din rose again to a crescendo. And my light bulb blinked on: this din is no mere ruckus but rather hundreds of lovely, independent hummingbirds, returned to the nest from across the ages, 5, 10, 70 years on, sharing with one another, and their lucky guests, how they're changing the world day by day. Or rather, to borrow a phrase from Anne Lamott, bird by bird. And the hummingbirds' buzz builds. And builds. And builds.

Buzz on Mawrtyrs, buzz on. Holler when you need a hand from the husbands (and wives). Until then, we Bryn Mawr spouses will enjoy being always startled and delighted.

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