For the past couple of years, I have attended what we call “mini-reunions” of our high school classes of the late 1960’s. These reunions are the brainchild of one of our classmates who keeps in touch with a great many of the people who attended our school. They are simple gatherings which occur in September and in May. We congregate in the bar of a local bowling alley — a cozy room that perfectly fits the forty or fifty people who meet for a drink or two, whatever food happens to be brought, and an evening of good conversation and much laughter. Most of us live locally, but we are sometimes pleasantly surprised by classmates who come from afar.
I love these gatherings. Our suburban high school was fairly upscale and composed of various cliques, and there were many of us who never quite fit in. At this juncture in our lives, though, we are all just happy to be together to reminisce and connect with each other on a different level. We are not there to impress anyone with our wealth or stature. By the time you reach your mid-sixties, you are what you are. We have lost many classmates and friends, and are grateful just to see the faces of those that are still here.
Perhaps one of the things I enjoy the most are the deep conversations that occur midst the joviality. We share not only the joyous stories of our lives, but also the darker moments. I am truly impressed with the courage of those who have lived lives much more difficult than anyone could imagine, and yet carry on, each bearing their burdens with strength and resilience. I am touched by the stories, and by the honesty of those who share them; I know that in the sharing, I come away from the evening hopeful that we have all helped each other in some measure by listening and caring.
For those few short hours, we exist in both the past and the present. We remember ourselves and our friends as we were, not necessarily as the aging people we are today. I look at the faces of these people, and I see them as young, beautiful, handsome, and hopeful. And yet, as I talk to them all and laugh with them, we forge new bonds, supporting and enjoying each others’ friendship in these “golden” years of ours.
I am grateful for these evenings, experiencing the camaraderie of people who share not only a history together, but also celebrate the chance to spend time together as our older and wiser (??) selves.
I am reminded of a lyric from a song, “To me you will always be eighteen, and beautiful, and dancing away with my heart.”