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From the Class Notes editor

Robyn Ross ’99 writes from Fort Worth that after four years of college — including a one-year position as Class Notes editor for The TCU Magazine¬†— she has graduated from TCU and will soon pursue a graduate degree in communication studies. She adds that while reporting the highs and lows of your lives, she often wondered what happened in between.

From the Class Notes editor

Robyn Ross ’99 writes from Fort Worth that after four years of college — including a one-year position as Class Notes editor for The TCU Magazine¬†— she has graduated from TCU and will soon pursue a graduate degree in communication studies. She adds that while reporting the highs and lows of your lives, she often wondered what happened in between.

A nameless, faceless, formless person who hovers somewhere over my shoulder has made it her career to take notes on my life for my hometown newspaper. She judges my activities for their potential resonance with readers and suggests possible photo illustrations, always threatening to send some information in or keep other parts out.

I never get to speak to this ephemeral woman, only hear her insidious whisper. She talks to me at odd times. When a friend from high school gets married and the paper carries a photograph of young lovers leaning artfully on each other’s shoulders, she coyly asks when she will get to place such a picture. When the United States Achievement Academy makes yet another merit award announcement, she inquires as to whether I have done anything lately worth mentioning. In the midst of difficult decisions, she reminds me to consider her needs — she has appointed herself my publicist, and she only wants to see me succeed so she can share me with the rest of the world.

But it’s not the whole me the world would read about anyway. It’s only my milestones. Like your milestones published here.

Those of you who send in clippings or cards about your weddings come from a world of blush chantilly lace and candlelight icing. I read about your ivory organza dresses, your chapel- and cathedral-length trains, your soutache embroidery trim, your three-tiered veils of silk illusion. The signatures at the base of these chronicles are careful, the trademarks of women not yet at ease writing the curves and loops of their new last name.

Baby announcements are bouncy and gurgly, emphasizing the weight and the middle name of the tiny new person they celebrate. They are peppered with exclamation points and the word “proud,” its fat vowels bursting with the robust joy of new parents. Older brothers and sisters wait in the margins, eager to play with their new siblings.

Those who have passed on provide the richest and most summarized reading. How can lives be compressed into the 40 or so lines in the obituary section, much less the section of this magazine where deaths are recorded? The devoted parents and grandparents are by necessity known only for their tenure in various loves and work, the fracture lines of their history that cleave easily into eras and new paragraphs.

You who loved amateur radio, African violets and pottery mingle together in the manila folder, sharing jokes and war stories while waiting to be read. The 33rd Degree Masons, the patrons of the arts, the junior high school history teachers are sifted into chronological piles of occupations and relationships, their raw possibility sealed by time. The few bits of information about you that make it into the fading newspapers are reduced even further to fit this space. You become metaphors of yourselves.

The Wedding Bell News, the Class Notes, the faded clippings, tell us the results. They keep undisclosed the wheres and whys, the agonizing waits outside the church or in the hospital lobby or by the mailbox. They delete, in the interest of space, finding the perfect bassinet at the garage sale, and the return to the grave to straighten the flowers after last night’s storm. Nobody sends in a note to tell distant classmates about the fence that finally got painted or about the old pet bird who died.

We announce to the world our elation and our sorrow but seldom report on the daily and the mundane. The milestones are what make it into publication, minimizing the viscosity of the life that runs between them. The notes are superficial by nature, compressing the truth and mystery of the experience into the tradition of print. They are full of recurring discursive formations, patterns of speech that are read and unconsciously produced to bear the same message but with different names.

In this world of condensed history, babies are welcomed on the day of their birth, as though they got to the hospital on their own. Recent graduates pursue advanced degrees, running with arms outstretched toward that elusive sheepskin. Couples exchange vows, the husband whispering slyly out of the corners of his mouth as the wife slides the signed certificate under the table. The overused verbs sigh as they are read and repeated, never themselves sharing in the event they relay.

My own months of being the editor to whom the publicists are beholden have toned down the critic over my shoulder and quietly persuaded her to conceptualize success differently. Now she watches me stitch together strangers’ updates and even picks up a clipping or two, skimming it as she waits politely for me to tell her my next idea, my next move. “Success” no longer has a monovalent meaning; the word has room for independence, for partnership, for expedition and comfort at once. And it is I, not my shadow or the readers at home, who may ultimately define it. Together we have begun to learn that life is liquid and love warms the self in ways that cannot be expressed by a collection of headlines.

Robyn Ross ’99 is a journalism and English graduate from Marble Falls. You may write to her — for a limited time only! — at tcumagazine@tcu.edu.