Coming Home to Theta
Our guest blogger is Ellen Urbani, author of “When I Was Elena.” We are discussing her book at tonight’s Reading Women book club.
The summer of 2015 marked nearly 25 years since I’d last gathered en masse with my Theta sisters. We’d been members of Delta Omicron at the University of Alabama in the late ‘80s, back when hair was bigger and pearls were de rigueur, before tornadoes wiped out the east side of campus, before New Orleans sank beneath hurricane waters, and before babies and husbands and careers monopolized our days. It would never again be like it had once been.
Until it was. Until it was … better.
In the late summer of 2015, I embarked on a national book tour with my latest book, Landfall, a work of contemporary historical fiction set Alabama and Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. I took my 10-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son with me on a trek that started at the eastern seaboard and wended its way toward Texas, hoping to introduce them to the South I always loved but have long-since left; the South I adore for its hospitality and graciousness and warmth of spirit. I wanted them to meet the ghost of the girl I had once been.
Instead, they met my family.
In state after state, in bookstore after bookstore, my sisters turned out to welcome me home. Not just my immediate sisters, mind you: meaning not just Delta Omicrons, though they turned out in droves, showing up with friends and family at every single stop on my 20-city national tour. (Heck: one fellow sister who couldn’t make it sent her mother in her stead; another sent her husband and his work colleagues; yet another crossed three state lines to hug me in person.) But sisters I never knew I had showed up too, spurred by a handwritten note I’d sent to Theta alumnae groups in cities throughout the South – cities where I didn’t know a soul and had nightmares about taking the stage before a roomful of empty chairs. Alumnae groups in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas – as well as parts of Alabama I’d never called home – turned out to fill those seats, cheer me on, and make sure that at not one single place in all of my travels did I ever feel either lonely or unsupported.
It was a gift of sisterhood unlike anything I had ever witnessed, and the truest demonstration of the motto “Theta for a lifetime” that one could conceive.
I have always thought that joining Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity was one of the smartest choices I made in college. You all have now convinced me that it is one of the smartest choices I have made in my life. Thank you, everyone. Your love makes my heart swell anew, a quarter-century later.