We've all been to reunions of some kind or other, be it high school, college or the family variety. Family reunions, especially at a younger age, tend to be fun and exciting as they amount to little more than an endless feast with a lot of other kids to play with in attendance. There are often just too many kids running free under the generally watchful eye of the grown-ups who themselves are pre-occupied with eating and catching up. Some things that aren't tolerated at home are overlooked in the general spirit and chaos of getting together.
This year marked the 25th year of my graduation from college. I've lost and gained more weight than I can count and deliberately keep my hair closely cropped to the point of appearing bald to the chagrin of my parents. The life I've lived and the world I've seen, the friends I've lost and the mistakes I've made won't open a film or earn a book-signing but, like others, reunions bring all of those memories back in to focus...with a question: What, exactly, am I going back for?
I don't have fame and fortune so I can't lord it over the others and I'm fairly sure I wouldn't want to if I had. I've made the most or best of the decisions I've made and have some treasured experiences to go with many of them. I don't have pictures of pets and progeny to stuff the iPhone with or a trail of tears behind me from broken hearts and failed relationships. In many ways I feel as if my life is only just beginning, that I am still on the quest for that one ultimate goal, that defining fulfillment that others in my graduating class might have found by now.
At the end of the day I decided like at least a few others to just go and see what happened. If it turned into an evening of chest beating, drinking and backbiting I'd simply leave. By now, 25 years after college and almost 30 after high school we were all old enough now to know the trials and tribulations of living, some more successfully so than others. I wasn't up for an evening of score carding.
The barbecue on the veranda of the student center turned out to be fairly low key and relaxed to my pleasant surprise. I was out of town the night before on business and missed the goings on of that evening which, true to form, didn't end for some until three in the morning. We talked about the kids, of course, and shared favorite dorm life and party stories from back in the day along with how the campus itself had changed. We let our guards down as much as people once tied to campus life would nearly a generation later.
We were in school in the early 80s. Prince, the Police, Madonna and Michael Jackson were all at the height of their careers. Hair was huge, Reagan was in office and beer was a dollar a bottle. No cell phones, e-mail or internet, there were many a "Come Get Me" stories from around town, waking me up on more than one early Sunday to bring them back before their mothers called their "Sweet Biddykins" to find out how they were doing.
We stayed on neutral ground, appreciated quietly together that we'd made it this far, hadn't changed much in appearance and still knew how to make each other laugh. Whatever we did or didn't accomplish wasn't the point; we were still here, we still cared about each other and we were safe together again, if only for a few hours.