We were sitting recruitment-style on the floor in the living room, trying our best to ignore the ninety-degree weather and our sticky legs. One tear slipped from my overly mascaraed eye and was followed quickly by another. I looked in horror at the upperclassman seated on the carpet beside me, but felt a wave of relief when I saw that her eyes were just as moist. Already exhibiting her superior wisdom, she’d opted for waterproof mascara. It was Preference Day of Recruitment my freshman year, and I had made a rookie mistake. Evidently she didn’t hold my raccoon eyes against me, as it was her arms that I ran to on Bid Day, shrieking so much that I lost my voice. Three years later, we’re still close. While Jayme and my friendship is unique, this story is not.
Chapters across the country are full of women who were recruited, mentored, loved, and inspired by this year’s senior class. This senior class is full of the women that take up the couches at meetings, and who stand on their tippiest tippy toes to make up the top of our stacks. The seniors are the ones who taught us our ritual, and who we call big, g-ma, and gg-ma. They’re also the ones who are frequenting our college town bars with wistful expressions and the ones sporting their favorite fraternity’s letters to the gym for the last few times. They’re packing their craft boxes, paddles, and wine glasses, and prepping to leave our undergrad world for the real one. But before they go, we need to thank them.
We need to thank them for teaching us that Crystal Light can make even the most bottom of bottom-shelf vodka easier to stomach, and for showing us that making it on the Dean’s List is imperative if you want to go out Thursday through Saturday without Standards breathing down your neck. We should thank them for teaching us the choreography to lip syncs and talent shows, and the lyrics to all our chapter’s songs.
While we’re at it, we should thank them for teaching us how to craft a perfect cooler, along with a perfect text to the boy for whom said cooler was being created for. We should also thank them for constantly spouting off phrases like, “You get out what you put in,” “You girls have no idea how much easier you have it compared to us,” and “We DID our time. It’s your turn.” It’s only when we become seniors ourselves that we’ll realize how right they are.
For now, in addition to filling in for our parents as the targets of our eye rolls, we ought to thank them for showing us the best spots to study in the library, that chugging water between drinks and before bed can prevent a hangover, and that no boys ever really own fish as pets. The seniors are the reason that we know that boys from that fraternity aren’t worth our time and that it’s never acceptable to skip a recruitment workshop.
Less superficial, we should thank them for serving as our recruitment chairs, our chapter presidents, and our risk managers. For showing us through example just how loving and strong a bond can grow between a group of women who are united not by blood, but through beliefs. Even more, we need to thank them for the things that are harder to put into words. We need to thank them for the memories, the sisterhood, and the legacy that they will leave us with. For being the women who have left indelible marks on both our hearts and our minds. To thank them for helping us cope with grief, teaching us how to get through break-ups, and being a shoulder to cry on. But also, for holding us accountable, instilling in us the value of hard work and (equally important) teamwork, and pushing us to be the version of ourselves that they knew we could be.
As they walk into the chapter one last time as active sisters, and walk out as newly christened alumnae, there will inevitably be a tear or two that is shed. When they graduate this spring, many of us will lose best friends and role models. Sure, they’ll only be a text or Facetime away, but that is small compensation for the casually split Sunday afternoon pitchers or Tuesday evening ice cream dates that they’ll no longer be around for. When we return to campus in the fall, it will be with hearts a little emptier and hallways a little quieter. Soon enough, though, it will be time to welcome a brand new group of women into our sisterhoods.
And who knows — maybe this year you will be the sage upperclassman wearing waterproof mascara, listening to a younger girl pour her heart out to you. .