A Tale of Three Roommates (Part 3)
When it comes to roommate stories, I was lucky enough to get the Goldilocks and the Three Bears version. Roommate #1 was too much alike, roommate #2 was too different and roommate #3 turned out to be just right.
Luckily for me, and it’s probably true that it was lucky for many of us, there were some natural community builders who lived on Walker 9West and 9East. They had organized the guys into participating in every team-based intramural event throughout our freshman year. And in the middle of our spring semester that year when it was time to make decisions about living arrangements for our sophomore year, they called a meeting. That sounds more formal than it was, but when the group was settled in, they proposed that everyone who was planning to live in the residence halls for our sophomore year all move to Walker 6 together. Walker 6 was a floor for sophomores and above. I had no plans so I thought it sounded like a good idea, but what about a roommate? ‘Potluck’ again? I was sitting next to a resident I knew slightly and liked. I didn’t have a roommate; she didn’t have a roommate for the coming year. It was a match. Just like that I had plans for my sophomore year. And the next year when I moved into Walker Tower, I was part of something. I was part of a group that had chosen to live in community. What a difference a year can make!
And M and I really were just right. We rocked along together effortlessly. She may remember differently, but I don’t remember that we ever fussed about the neatness of our room. I don’t remember any discussions about the cleanliness about the bathroom. It certainly wasn’t the defining feature of our year which was a huge step up from the previous semester. I do remember that neither of us was chatty in the morning. When we both had a 9:00 am class, it wasn’t unusual for us to get ready in silence. We’d move between bedroom and bathroom never saying a word until we met up with two others, who also had class at that time, for breakfast. It was a lovely routine that semester.
Our room was bright yellow and for some reason, on the wall behind the door, we had a series of hashmarks showing our relative heights and those of friends who came to our room. M and I were both near the bottom of that ruler. We did some things together and some apart. We had friends in common and not. She talked me into doing some hall activities. I think she’s why I have a ‘medal’ for winning second-place in intramural horseshoes. I know she helped me get involved in life on Walker 6.
That was the year I learned the magic of living in a community. There was always someone to chat with when bored. There was the group who watched the mini-series “Roots” together, meeting up night after night to watch the saga of Kunta Kente. It was easy to find three other people for a game of Spades. Several of us learned to play Bridge. We practiced the newest disco line dances in the floor lounge and studied together. There was a group who gathered in the TV lounges at 4:00 every afternoon to watch reruns of Star Trek, the original version. We made fun of it, quoted it, and wouldn’t have missed it. When it was over, we joined the “Star Trek Rush” as multiple floors finished watching the show and streamed across the street to Couch Cafeteria for dinner. That’s when I learned to drink hot tea. Couch was often cold and I’d hold on to the plastic cup for warmth as I sat and talked with friends until they closed us down at 6:30.
After our sophomore year, we moved apart. A few folks stayed on Walker 6. My roommate M, who was from Norman, moved back home for her last two years to save money. A couple of us became RAs and moved to other residence halls to try and build new communities. A few transferred to other campuses. But many of us stayed connected through campus activities, like the Model United Nations, and classes through graduation and beyond.
Roommates matter. Suitemates matter. Community matters. It took me a while to learn just how to engage, but once I did, I found a group of friends. And to my great surprise many of them are lifelong friends. Thanks to a couple of those community minded friends and Facebook, a group of us have reconnected and travel to Norman once a year for a reunion. The wife of one of the ‘guys of Walker 9’ described us as a lovely group of nerds. It’s very true and it is one of the joys of my life and nothing I would have ever expected when I started college, slow starter that I was.
These two years, as much as my two years as an RA, were formative years for me. It is why, even though I know it’s not for everyone, I still believe in the value of new college students living in a residential community of some sort. It’s why I believe in the value and purpose of the entire out-of-class experience. I loved my academic experiences. I had some wonderful classes and professors, but they were only half of my education. What I learned living in those communities in Walker Tower and later as an RA turned out to be fundamental to my ability to get over myself and engage with others once I left OU for law school and throughout my career.
I learned something from everyone I lived with those first two years. All three of my roommates gave me tales to tell.
PS: I haven’t forgotten you, Margaret. I actually had four roommates in college. Margaret, who was part of the Walker 9 and Walker 6 communities became a dear friend and was honor attendant at my wedding. We sublet an apartment built over a two-car garage the summer between our senior year and law school for me and graduate school for her. It was a different experience than my residence hall roommates, and it was lovely coda to our college years before we all went our separate ways, but it’s a different story.
PPS: The picture is from the OU yearbook for academic year 76-77. The daughter of one of the Walker 9 reunion group found this in an old yearbook in an antique store! She shared the picture with her parents who posted it on Facebook. Instead of separate shirts for the men and women, we came together as Walker 6&6 adapting the old Phillips 66 logo. And yes, I’m in this picture!
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