I remember the first time I took part in the tradition.
My roommate Kelly stood in the doorway of our dorm room clad in her pajamas, her curly hair a perfect ponytail puff, and a bag of tantalizing microwave popcorn balanced on her hip.
“So? Are you coming or what?” She popped a perfect piece of buttery, salted popcorn in her mouth.
“Down to Houghton 2 to watch ER. If we don’t leave now, all the good seats are going to be taken.”
“Okay,” I hauled myself up and started toward the door.
Kelly sighed. “You can’t go in jeans. Put your pajamas on!”
“Oh, for crying out loud,” I rolled my eyes, before dashing around the room getting ready for “bed.”
Eventually, Kelly and I headed down the hallway of our beloved Houghton 9 West and submerged ourselves in the giggling, yawning, and chattering crowd of 9 North and West girls already waiting for the elevator.
When the button dinged, we crowded as many of us as possible into the elevator. A few girls from Houghton 10 got squeezed in the back as we piled on. The elevator flew open on Houghton 8, and we all sing-songed “Sorry!” to the waiting girls. The doors closed and re-opened on every floor.
We repeated our apology until we got to Houghton 4 and 3. Those waiting girls heard, “Oh, come on! What? You can’t go down a few stairs?”
Secretly, I was always glad to live on Houghton 9. No one ever yelled at us for taking the elevator. (You all know how much I love exercise.)
When we hit Houghton 2, the only floor in our dorm with a TV, we burst out of the elevator and raced toward the lounge.
Kelly and I had a plan. She would grab the first two seats she could get her hands on. These would be our fall back seats. I would boldly charge forward and try to get closer seats. Whichever one of us ended up with the better seats would gesture wildly to the other one, and we’d settle in before the theme song started.
We loved George Clooney. Every girl in that room would sigh and sometimes even call out a marriage proposal or two. It was like a scheduled sleepover with 50 of our closest friends every Thursday night.
It was our own unique, special tradition. There was a bigger TV and a bigger co-ed lounge on Culby 2, the men’s dorm. But being able to watch TV in our pj’s – unkempt, ungroomed, and free from the evaluating eyes of guys was a boon none of us wanted to pass up.
I have never been a pajama person. Not the same could be said for the majority of my Moody sisters. In fact, one girl used to come back to her room in between classes, just to take off her skirt, and put on her pajama pants for the scant 15 minutes before her next class. (I’m looking at you, Vanessa.)
The comfortable camaraderie of my college colleagues made those Thursday nights precious and valued. It was a great way to meet new girls, connect with the friends you didn’t see enough, and an ideal roommate bonding experience. We’d sprawl over the couches on Houghton 2 and cheer, laugh, and cry together.
We’d yell at the loudmouth in the back to shut up, and then crack up laughing when she torpedoed her pillow at us. Seeing as how Kelly and I were rarely quiet ourselves, we also got told to shut up a number of times. We wrinkled our noses at each other and showered the offended shusher with popcorn.
I never imagined ER would last this long. We enjoyed it during its early heyday when it was THE show to watch.
You know? I can hardly recall watching any other television during my days at Moody, but those Thursday night ER parties are crystal clear.
After college, I lost interest in ER. I picked it up again when the talented Kellie Martin, of Christy fame, was added as a regular. But when she was killed off later in the series, I stopped watching again.
NBC has been touting the series finale of ER for the past seven years (it seems). However, tonight is really the end. All the people who made it worth watching are coming back. As I watched the cameo previews and saw those familiar faces, it was like greeting old friends.
Anthony Edwards, Julianna Margulies, Noah Wyle, Eriq La Salle, and of course the IT man himself, George Clooney. Just a glimpse of their faces sent me spiraling back.
Once again, I was 18, carefree and happy. The girls on my floor were among my very best friends, despite my only knowing them for a few months. I was free and unencumbered. The world spread out before me, a limitless buffet of what I could accomplish.
For the first time in my life, I had real friends, real people who liked me for me. Every day was an adventure. The streets of Chicago were my oyster, and I was already aware these were going to be among the best days of my life.
The best day of the week by far was Thursday when I joined my friends in that warm and homey lounge, only two floors up from Chicago’s snow-dusted streets. Clad in our pajamas, clutching our popcorn, and holding onto the youth and innocence we had no idea was fleeting.
With ER’s season finale tonight, that long standing tradition ends. But the memories remain.
As the notes of the theme song started tonight, I went back to Houghton 2.
I missed Kelly with her poufy dark hair and infectious laugh. I missed the crowd of gracious and loving girls who made up my family for those four years. I missed being part of something that helped define our small band of sisters as a cohesive, impenetrable unit in the big city.
As I watched those familiar faces on screen and wished it were my own dear friends I was seeing again, I thanked God for those years and those friends.
Most of all, I thanked Him that I have the distinct honor and privilege of always being counted as a Moody girl.
Huzzah, my Houghton sisters, huzzah!