On the banks of the Connecticut River

About this time 13 years ago, my mailbox was flooded with wave after wave of college brochures. From near and far, everyone was sending beautiful campus scenes and course options my way. 

Among the massive piles of mail was a three page spread from a liberal arts college in Western Mass. It showed women rowing – a team of strong individuals out on the water with the mist rising around them. I kept it while I recycled most of the rest.

Many college visits and applications later, I visited that place. I met those nerds, sat in their classrooms, debated whether Hillary Clinton would run for president and if Harry would defeat Voldemort. And I chose that school for my college education.

This weekend, I went back to Mount Holyoke with one of the best treasures of my time there – my friend Kate (she of Mount Washington hiking fame, loyal readers) – to celebrate the thing that brought us together: 40 years of rowing on the Connecticut River.


Kate coxed our 8 (the O’Malley) and we rowed up and down the river. A flood of memories washed over me. How carrying the boat seemed easier now but stretching my legs right seemed harder. How to lock the oar for the catch and keep good swing in your slide. The commands I know from muscle memory – just like I remembered that one place where your thumb rubs on your outer hand and will DEFINITELY turn into a blister. And how amazing it feels when the boat glides across the choppy water of a New England river. 

Fun fact: our coach thought we were the same person for 3 seasons. Wearing matching clothes by accident still doesn’t help.

At night, we celebrated the christening of a new boat – blessed with champagne and river water – in honor of fellow alum and Olympian Mary Mazzio. At the dinner that followed, she told us about how getting through excuses and focusing on herself rather than her competitors made the difference in her success. And she reminded us that pull ups are “money in the bank” and was appalled at how few of us could do them. Sorry Mary!

I feel like I was blessed with river water myself this weekend. It was a beautiful reminder of the best decision I ever made – and all I gained from that charming, powerhouse of a college. And to think… it all started with this poster.

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