I told myself, “There’s nothing more to write.” I reminded myself, “You’ve said all you have to say.” And I admonished myself when I thought otherwise. Still, driving home from the third annual grade school reunion last Sunday, I wondered. Was this one different? Could it be the last? Should I chronicle it as I had done the first two?
I told myself to hold firm to my resolution.
So I settled for reviewing the past three days in my head after dropping my best friend Carol at the St. Louis airport to return to Austin, Texas. “If you need me, just call,” I said as we hugged. These days, she’s the strongest connection there is to a disappearing past; and I thought of the Carol King song “You’ve Got a Friend” as I said goodbye.
Then I drove from St. Louis, Missouri, across the Mississippi River into Illinois, north toward Chicago and then east into Indiana and home territory in Michigan. As I pondered the last three days, I listened to my iPod through my car’s stereo system and felt an emotional wave roll over me. Were the memories or the music to blame?
Was this reunion different from the previous two? Yes and no. The first night was held in the same place, and it was just as exciting to see former classmates of almost six decades ago come through the door. The next day some of us visited the old neighborhood, just as before. And that evening we had a final gathering in a clubhouse capped with a photo of the alums huddling together. In these ways it was the same.
But the psychic energy was markedly different. Instead of waiting to greet a classmate we hadn’t seen in years (as we did the first time), or hoping that classmate would return (as we did the second time), there was an anticipation to see how that classmate had fared since we’d been together last year. It seems we’d reconnected and were who we once had been. The bond was that strong.
There were two new classmates who attended this year, and two who’d come before but couldn’t make it this time. Thankfully, there was no news of other classmates who had died. Kathleen and Jim arrived at different times, which was wonderful. We could focus our full attention on each individually. Take a moment to recognize and then hug. Laugh at the improbability of it all.
Could this be the last reunion?
It will definitely not be the last one, because everyone who comes becomes enchanted with reconnecting and wants to do it again. Jim offered to find other male graduates. Kathleen has already said she won’t miss the next one. Nor will the rest of us. I mean, how many keep in touch with grade school classmates after almost sixty years? When we do this again next year, I’m calling the newspapers.
I talked with Jim about this. He had been reluctant to come for various health and personal reasons. It took him three years, but he finally gathered his courage and his medications and came. Within the hour, he was hooked. He raised the question: “Why”?
Why were we so simpatico after all these years when we’d all gone separate ways?
I think coming of age has something to do with it. These were the girlfriends with whom I shared my adolescent secrets during sleepovers. These were the boyfriends who endured my first romantic crushes. And Spin-the-Bottle kisses. We danced to Elvis and the Everly Brothers. As their song of the time said, we dreamed.
Who doesn’t remember those things, even if there is no connection half a century later? But when one or two people have kept in touch and begin to reminisce, beware.
Carol G. was really the prime mover in these reunions, although there is no doubt that many others contributed. But most likely the main reason we all reconnected was the emergence of the Internet.
“Would anybody have been willing to cull telephone books to find classmates?” Carol asked. She and I had discussed a reunion probably a dozen years ago, but the prospect of facing those telephone books dismayed us. However, when the Internet and Facebook and Google emerged, the task of locating others became easier. We took advantage. And other classmates did too.
Some traveled many miles to participate; some stayed in St. Louis in the intervening years. All have the scars of life. And many of our conversations were about those scars of family tragedies and triumphs. We traded history stories and grandchildren’s photographs and asked, “Are you happy now?”
In the end we all returned to the connections we had as St. Louis Cathedral’s grade school class of 1957. And we are all coming of age again.
Some are slower than the last time we met. Carol commented, probably privately as we hunkered in our hotel room, that we are becoming the group of the ‘Organ Recital.” At our age, we have physical ailments and limitations; and we are concerned about our spouses’ health issues. Which leads us to share this information as quickly as we share grandchildren’s photographs.
I arrived home about seven hours after leaving Carol at the airport in St. Louis. It was time enough to recall all the wonderful moments of this reunion and help my mind and my body arrive at the same time in the same place.
“Well,” said my mind. “Are you going to keep your resolution and not write about the reunion?”
“Stop it,” said my heart. “Let her do what she wants.”
You know who won.