Friday, March 26, 2010

Reunification

This coming June I will return to my college town and the scene of some of my most memorable life experiences to celebrate with my classmates the passage of the twenty-five years since we were let loose on the world.  A great turnout will be something like five hundred of my three thousand classmates. Personally, I wish everyone would come back.  However, not everyone ascribes to such gatherings the same importance that I do.

This got me to thinking about reunions and the people who come back for them. Frankly, I am astounded when others don't share my enthusiasm for reunions, but then again very few people are as nostalgic as I am. I often have said that reunions are for the rich, the famous, the thin, and those with something to prove, but now that I am on the cusp of the one that seems to have the most importance attached to it, I think these categories are not inclusive enough. After all, being rich/notable and/or having maintained a lean appearance after all these years could fall into the "something to prove" category so that may be a little redundant. What about those who just don't care about such labels? What about those who just love people and have very fond memories of college and want to be among the people with whom they shared a wonderful experience? I think that is the category that best describes me.
   
Given that this blog may be the most notable thing I have ever attempted, I don't think I can claim any special notoriety. Since I was not born on third base, did not invent the internet, and have yet to figure out how I will be able to afford college for my three children, I can't check off the "wealthy" box.  I am hanging onto my hair like grim death but the eyesight battle I waged successfully for so long has in the past two years turned into a rout. If I don't call out to you at the reunion it will only be because I can't see who you are. However, thanks to a newly ascetic lifestyle I am confident that I will by June be back to my college weight. So I have that going for me. Which is nice.

The rise of Facebook has, thankfully, removed some of the urgency that is built into reunions. I read recently that my generation comprises the fastest growing Facebook user segment. Along with other forms of electronic and immediate communication, Facebook updates will allow my classmates and me to do away with some of the tiresome "So, what are you doing these days?" foreplay that goes with reunions. We instead can get right into the stories, embellishments, and outright lies that are the foundation of any successful reunion.  As a result, I won't feel compelled to cut short my time with any one person in order to catch someone else before they vanish into the crowd, possibly never to be seen again. Sadly, my friends and I were reminded of this cheerless fact not too long ago when one of our beloved classmates passed away unexpectedly. With our own parents' lives in the process of winding down, we are about to be promoted to the front of the line. It's early yet, but as we just experienced, it's not too early.

By the time of our twenty-fifth reunion I think we all expect that we will have gotten a few rungs up life's ladder, gained some perspective, fulfilled our biological imperative, and perhaps even made peace with who we have turned out to be. That won't be the case with everyone, of course. Will we be judging each other?  Not consciously perhaps, but at some level, yes. It would be impossible not to. Because life's successes are as varied as we are and despite the fact that such judging accomplishes nothing, life is a competition and unfortunately the judges will be there to score the contest. My approach will be that if you are happy, then I am happy for you. Pretty simple.

 So, fellow classmates, I will be there with my family and I will be incredibly happy to see each and every one of you. I trust that my smile will convey that.  I will revel in the fact that I am again amidst the people with whom I shared that most precious slice of time-college-and will be comforted in the knowledge that we continue to muddle through life together.

In Frank Capra's 1946 Christmas classic "It's a Wonderful Life," Clarence the angel reminds Jimmy Stewart's character George Bailey that "No man is a failure who has friends." By that measure, like George Bailey, I consider myself one of the luckiest–and richest–people in the world. And that certainly is a reason to celebrate.