You Can Only Go Back For A Day

By Briane Nasimok

(TORONTO, ON) – Last week was my college reunion at the University of Toronto. It was not the first one I had been invited to,  but for some reason the one I finally attended.

Okay the reason is because I have a loose weekly deadline for the Windsor Square and life has not been that interesting since sitting in the window of the Red Sandcastle Theatre during the SoulOTheatre Festival last week.

A few years back I had reacquainted myself with the university as I sent them a little “alumni money”, feeling guilty that over all those years, I had never given back, financially speaking.

When I graduated I had received the Acadia Award and $1,000 to leave, so having had a good year according to the government, I sent them a c-note back.

Since that time I have had offers to join grads on trips, requests to send more money, invitations to hear informative lectures, requests to send more money, offers to buy lovely items, and requests to send more money.

This invitation for the “welcome back”, included three days of events offered by the university, various colleges, and faculties. My college, Innis, only sponsored a film presentation on the Thursday night, which was “sold out” before I had a chance to RSVP; thus continuing my post-secondary education record of not doing things on deadline.

So I signed up for the Saturday morning lecture on Italian Food and Society and the BBQ lunch that followed.

I checked in at 9:30 at the entrance to Alumni House and was queried if I had an “and one” with me. Who knew I could bring a date?

Going inside for a muffin and tea (note to Alumni House: better baked goods, please), I noticed that there were many more-senior graduates in the room than I, until I checked out their nametags and discovered some of them were from my graduation year, while others were five years my junior.

Get out the Geritol! (For those of you who are too young to get the reference, please consult the Internet.)

How the U of T arranges their reunions is that grads from years in multiples of five are invited back on mass. So let’s say I graduated in 1993 (please, let’s say that), then those grads would join the ones from ’98, 2003, etc. I shan’t let you know where I fit in the grand scheme of this mathematical equation of graduation, but suffice to say ’93 would not be a good guess.

The very nice young woman at the sign-in desk had given me my “free gift”, a souvenir U of T cloth bag, plus an invitation to the General Meeting that was happening at 11:00 am. The AGM was highlighted by a keynote address by Michael Wilson.

While at University, I had made it my mission to never attend two classes back to back, a lecture before 9:00 am, or to schedule classes on Fridays, so I decided that I would take a pass on the AGM, unless I was getting more gifts.

With tea and muffin in hand it was over to the Sid Smith Building on St. George Street for the lecture.

Security was tight as the lecture was sold out. They even had a rush line! After they scanned my bar code, to make sure I wasn’t sneaking in, I took my seat.

The 200-seat lecture hall was nearly full and I searched the room for any semi-familiar face I might recognize from my past. After dropping 30-something pounds in the last year– thank you again Barbie Cassleman – I hoped that someone would come over and tell me how great I looked.

Didn’t happen. Not an old friend in the group.

After an introduction from the head of alumni services, the lecturer proceeded to the podium.

Let me say that I took copious notes that I would have loved to share with you at this point; about Italian food, and culture, and the significance of the pastas and fish. But my university routine of misplacing my rough notes came back to haunt me and as of the writing of this, my effort is missing. And I have no one to call to borrow his or her notes!

So what I remember…

Each province in Italy has its own unique food. You get the evil eye if you order the wrong dish in one of the Italian provinces that has not originated the recipe. The order that we serve and eat food has to do with our culture.

Pasta is good. Jesus liked fish. Italians have two kitchens.

I am sure there is more but that is all I retained. Good thing there’s no exam.

When the lecture finished I had time to kill before the BBQ, so I went back to my old college to reflect. Was life easier back then? It definitely was less complicated. Information wasn’t flying at us in all directions. We had to go to a library to get facts, not just hit a button.

University was a place for me to discover … me.

My Liberal Arts education of being able to major in nothing (my BA is in Interdisciplinary Studies) meant I could concentrate on the important things in life; learning to write with deadlines every four or five days for the Varsity newspaper, figuring out how to produce and direct theatre through bad and good college plays, becoming the college beer-chugging champion, and the beginning of my blossoming opera career (more on that later).

And realizing that I was responsible for my life and decisions.

In accordance with that, I passed on the long lines for carcinogen-filled food and hopes of seeing someone I hadn’t wanted to see for decades, who would tell me I looked great, to head for home.

Maybe I’ll send in another hundred dollars to the U of T this year… but please don’t tell Alumni House to expect it; unless they get better muffins.

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About the Author

Ian Shalapata
Ian Shalapata
Ian Shalapata is the owner and publisher of Square Media Group. He covers politics, the police beat, community events, the arts, sports, and everything in between. His imagery and freelance contributions have appeared in select publications and for organizations in Canada and the United States. Contact Ian with story ideas.