Two kindergarten classmates reconnect after 15 years

Ben Gillard ’22 (left) and Matt Little ’22 (right) flash smiles. Both lived in Ann Arbor and studied in Ms. Gibbs’ kindergarten class at Wines Elementary school before Matt moved away. They discovered their intertwined pasts by chance over a Tasty Tuesday meal. Dean Kopitsky/Miscellany News

College is the place to meet people! At Vassar we have the privilege of access to many, many intramural sports, affinity groups, arts spaces and student publications. They pose great opportunities to meet like-minded people, expand your horizons and blow through your allocated space on Gmail. There are new, unexpected friends to be made in all corners of campus. However, after a conversation with Matt Little ’22 and Ben Gillard ’22, I’d pose a new org; one dedicated to reconnecting with old friends.

Ben and Matt met this year as sophomores. Matt is a history major, active in
politics on campus, and an avid, inherently suffering New York Giants fan. Ben is a film major. He’s in the comedy group Nitrous Oxide, was in several student plays last year and works with VC filmmakers.

Coincidentally, they both lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the early 2000s; Ben has lived there for his whole life, and Matt did for just a year in kindergarten. From here, the coincidences continue. They both were in Ms. Gibbs’ class at Wines Elementary School. Ben remembers a kid named Matt who had a sister, Annika, and whose dad had a Tintin collection. Matt has a sister named Annika, and his dad has a Tintin collection as well.

They missed each other in the mass of bodies at the class picture on move-in day. They must have not chatted awkwardly during any icebreakers at orientation week. They didn’t share any classes in their freshman year. By May, their paths had yet to cross in any meaningful way.

“I distinctly remember actually trying on your glasses at one point,” Matt said to Ben, who sat beside him and across from me in the Lathrop MPR on a rainy Sunday evening. Ben is still wearing large glasses, now thin and round. Matt wears a turquoise flannel, Ben a red-checkered flannel. We’re talking about kindergarten.

Ben reminisced about a relic of childhood I’m sure we all miss dearly: recess. He said, “Soccer at recess was a big thing. The classes were divided so when the classes played against each other it was a big deal.” “Hey, we got pretty good,” Matt replied. “I also remember we played in a ditch behind the school when it was snowy. There was a chain link fence and you could pop the bottom open…we would just hang out in this ditch by the highway.”

Fifteen years later, maybe things have changed a little. In this spirit of small talk, I asked for their favorite food, and what came in return were some interesting responses. Matt said his favorite food in kindergarten was pistachios—he clearly had quite the high-brow palette for a five-year-old. Ben’s answer threw me for a loop with a food I’d never heard of: Dinosaur Eggs Oatmeal, brought to the children of the mid 2000s by the good people at the Quaker Oats Company. A quick poll of the Misc office Monday night revealed that I was alone in my ignorance of dino oatmeal. They both agreed that Deece fries are their favorite food now. Ben admitted, “There was a week that I had fries. Just fries.”

Happily, being at Vassar brought them not only Deece fries, but a rekindled friendship. Matt and Ben met over Tasty Tuesday. It was over a Gennie’s chicken and Twisted Soul noodles that Matt thanked Ben for his Lions beating the Eagles, rivals of the Giants. Matt excitedly recounted, “And then I asked where exactly he was from, he said Ann Arbor and I said, ‘You know, I lived in Ann Arbor for a couple of years.’” Ben said he went to Wines. Matt said he did too. Their teacher? Ms. Gibbs.

Ben was still surprised at that auspicious Tasty Tuesday. “When I met you again I was like, ‘I like this guy!’ I guess it makes sense, I liked this guy when I was 6 too…we went from acquaintances to friends. Again!” Matt was equally bewildered: “It’s amazing. One in a million.”

I asked them if they had anything philosophical to add. Evidently, their serendipitous meeting yielded no further insight into the Machinations of the Universe. So I think I’ll use their words to serve my own musings.

You know that thing you do when you’re about to walk past someone on the sidewalk, or in your dorm hall? How you either stare into your shoes or straight ahead into oblivion? Matt and Ben probably performed that same awkward dance at some point, but now they know better. “You should tell people to say hi to everyone you see because you could be long lost Vassar friends,” Ben suggested. I think he’s onto something.

So what do you have to lose? The next time you’re about to cross paths with someone, you’ll have opportune moments after placing down this paper to make some solid, friendly eye contact with your fellow humans. Maybe it’ll trigger a memory deep in the recesses of your mind and you’ll find a long lost pal. Or is that too creepy to recommend?

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