IN THEIR OWN WORDS – Fall 2016
WALKING IN DIGNITY:
Georgia W. Dahlberg ’63.
We were a rowdy bunch—known as the “Mad Dog Cadets,” attributed with many dastardly deeds, none true. The infamous panty raid at VC was our handiwork, yet one could hardly call it malicious, as it spawned dates and subsequent marriages. Ours was the biggest 50th class reunion ever, with some 170 male alumni and one alumna, me. Despite my nervousness, I determined to walk in and walk out of Homecoming 2013 with dignity. What transpired in between was out of my control. As H. Jackson Brown says, “When you can’t change the direction of the wind—adjust your sails.”
As things were getting started, I went for my goodie bag with my senior-year roomie, Howie. I had ordered an XL woman’s jacket, which was too tight at the hips. Lynn O. ’63 managed to get me one that fit, though it was a man’s. We met Lynn’s wife, Dianne, and retired to our rooms to change. I didn’t notice at first how closely I was being scrutinized.
An informal cocktail party was next, and it was crowded! We filled the hall to the hilt. Holding a glass of wine, I looked for my old friend Art D. and in the process ran into Harry C., who should have cold-shouldered me with all the grief I had given him as cadet first sergeant. Harry grabbed me in a bear hug, took my hand, and led me to the other side of the hall to meet his wife and her friends. He insisted she take several photos of Harry and me together. I was stunned! Fifty years soothes a lot of past angst, and Harry is now buddies with this trans person—me. Suddenly Visvaldis “Vis” Kimenis grabs me by the shoulder and says, “You directed that amateur war movie we did so long ago!”
Filing into the banquet I finally noticed Art D. and his wife and sat to talk with them next to the VIP table. I regaled her with tales of the adventures Art and I shared so long ago. After the program, Dianne O. touched my shoulder, bent down, and told me how much she admired my courage and dignity.
The next day, Homecoming registration, Harry wanted more photos. We lined up for the induction and presentation of Old Guard medallions. After lunch and more speeches, Howie and I hiked to the bookstore and accidentally met Rikki, the student leader of the LGBTQ organization, who presented me with a lovely bedspread and Norwich tote bag, compliments of Dean Martha Mathis. During the football game, my American Legion hat leaped out of my purse and sunk into the stadium structure! This will intrigue future Norwich archeologists, for sure. At halftime, we met Rikki and friends. Then back on the bus to Stoweflake Resort.
Another fancy-dress cocktail party, more wine, more talk with classmates. I am resting my high-heeled feet when Vis comes over to me. He asks many questions, none of which concern my gender change but instead focus on my work. Here comes a short, detailed yack by me on the nature of nuclear power. I am again flattered that this classmate involved in so much diplomatic high-powered work would want to talk with little old me.
At the banquet, there is friendliness to one who is not outrageous and knows how to eat prime rib primly and properly. Many slides of the class are shown, including several of yours truly in cadet mode. Dianne comes up and we have a long conversation on kids and life. I show her the photos of me as a cadet, which we had been urged to take home, and she hugs me and says, “I love you!” I am pretty much melting at this point and tearing up with emotion! Then Lynn presents me with an extra cut-glass Norwich engraved bowl, the kind given to the widows of our deceased.
I had walked into this reunion with trepidation, determined to carry myself with dignity through whatever might come. I walked out with a soaring spirit from the goodwill, gentleness, and respect shown to me by Howie, Harry, Art, Vis, Lynn and Dianne, Cadet Rikki, Dean Martha, and all my classmates from long ago and their wives. Walking in dignity has given me more rewards than I could ever have expected.