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Four College Roommates Weekend Together, 16 Years Later

They came to the East End from Seattle, San Francisco, and Wollongong, Australia, my Vassar College housemates and dear friends—Amy, Ariel and Shady. We lived together our senior year in student housing inappropriately called “The Townhouses,” or colloquially, the “TH’s.” We lived in TH B-10.
Before moving into B-10, I thought townhouses were quaint, brick structures with leaded windows and gaslights out front. In fact, these houses were split-level constructions made of cinderblock, with hollow doors and low ceilings. The story goes that they were temporary housing, intended for teardown after a period of use, but instead were converted into upperclassman lodging. Huddled together like a prison cellblock, they stood in contrast to Vassar’s Gothic and Elizabethan architecture on the quad and beyond just across the road.
Nothing says, “We believe in you, future grads!” quite like assignment to a veritable penal complex.
We had a fifth roommate, Holly, but we no longer speak to or of her. Without asking the rest of us, she invited her Australian boyfriend, Bob, to live with us at B-10. Politically conservative, he ate Vegemite and regularly provoked Shady at the dinner table with anti-feminist remarks. Shady was a Women’s Studies major, but despite her championing for gender equality and eradicating the objectification of women, we called ourselves The B-10 Babes.
So it was with great anticipation that I awaited The Babes’ arrival to our house in Sag Harbor for a reunion comprised of four nights, four Babes, and Amy’s four-year old boy.
Immediately upon moving in together senior year, Amy set up a chore wheel. As a TH veteran from junior year, and the person through which we all met one another, she was the de facto den mother. She was also Type A to the core—an early riser, marathon runner, etc. The pie chart featured two grocery-shopping slots, and slices for cleaning the bathroom, kitchen and living room. In addition, each of us was assigned to cook dinner one weeknight. The rule stipulated—per Amy—that you cooked and cleaned and had to make enough for any guest requests, of which you’d be notified in advance. (It wasn’t uncommon to cook for 10 plus. After all, there were professors to feed, and Amy’s track mentees to fuel.) In a given week, we consumed four gallons of milk, five to six boxes of cereal, eight pounds of pasta and 10 heads of Romaine. We split the bill, which came out to roughly $25/week each. For our reunion weekend, we did a similar mega-shop, but with fistfuls of farmstand greens, local catch, and margarita fixin’s, our respective totals exceeded $75. I guess inflation could be responsible (or the $80 bottle of Jose Cuervo).
Sixteen years later, we are in the kitchen again, Amy back at the helm, starting dinner before the rest of us even slipped off our flip-flops, assigning tasks with her wooden spoon while sautéing kale. “Ariel, you’re on drinks. Shady, I’ll need you to fire up the grill. Rachel, where can I find lanterns?” I was grateful for her task mastering. Without it, we would have eaten at midnight.
If our weekend had an unspoken chore wheel, Ariel self-assigned the cleaning slots. After all, she was the Babe who vacuumed the painter’s canvas “carpet” that lined her college room’s floor every night before bed. Multiple times during our weekend, she dragged the hefty canister vac down from the upstairs hall closet, something I’ve never attempted during my leisure time out East.
It goes without saying that in 1995, Townhouse B-10 was largely an analog home—we had two corded phones on a single line, and I don’t recall if we had a TV. Though we each had a computer, we filed into Ariel’s room when we wanted to get online—through dial up! “No one use the phone, please!” one of us would shout. “I’m going to check email.” Ariel was the tech savviest among us as her work-study job was at the computer lab. For our weekend, she made a playlist of old favorites, which we listened to in the car, while we cooked, and during an impromptu living room dance party. This time, our devices outnumbered us three-fold.
In college, I was the only housemate without a car. There was Ariel’s 1966 Beetle. (Did I ever thank her for driving me to JC Penny to pick up that mannequin leg for my thesis project?) Amy had a Saab with Volvo seats, and Shady, a 1970’s Dodge Diplomat. This time, I shuttled the gals around, dragging them on a gardening errand to Agway in Bridgehampton for whiskey barrels and soil, even though I sensed that blood sugar levels were waning. When we got stuck in traffic on 27, things got tense. It’s probably time I learned the back roads.
Luckily, our friend and college mate, Jill—an adjunct Babe—lives full-time in Amagansett. She joined us for parts of the weekend, and kept us on course given the crowds that summer in the Hamptons brings, making dinner reservations and playing the role of a local concierge.
Though in college the four of us spent our free time pursuing different extra-curricular activities—running, fencing, dancing, climbing—for the B-10 reunion, we aligned our sports. We played tennis at Mashashmuet Park, with Amy’s son as a swift ball boy who called out which Babe he would throw the Wilson to whenever he retrieved one. But most memorable was the stand-up paddleboard yoga class at Paddle Diva in Shagwong Marina in East Hampton, an activity new to all of us.
Lifesaver fanny packs buckled around our waists, we paddled across the channel, first on our knees, then standing when we felt more confident. Effortlessly, we glided past one another and saluted: Babes on Boards. Once across the bay, we tethered our paddles and began, the asymmetrical postures proving the most challenging. Ariel was the first to splash, but the rest of us soon followed. Shady lost her sunglasses (which she promptly replaced at T.J. Maxx after class). We moved through the poses while the current drifted us back towards shore. By the time we were in final rest, we had returned to where we began.
On our last day together, we walked the cliffs at Shadmoor State Park in Montauk, which they agreed was one of the most dramatic spots they’ve been (and they’re from some breathtaking places themselves). We took photos like it was graduation day, our wide-brimmed sun hats filling most of the frames.
I wish the Babes could have stayed longer, but alas, they had lives to return to that didn’t involve excessive tequila drinking and pulling out their wackiest moves for an iPhone video camera. I cried when I dropped them off at JFK, then again when I learned the connecting bus to Newark wasn’t running and I would have to drive Shady there myself. No, but really…I was grateful for the extra time. I told her we could make the East End an annual tradition, but was met with her insistent “Australia for the next Babes’ reunion.”

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