I attended my 30th high school reunion a few weeks ago. We old friends just fell into conversation as if we had seen each other yesterday. Nametags did help, but for the most part, we recognized each other right away. Our high school was unique in that it was so diverse, and that diversity was accepted and celebrated through our friendships. In fact, it is a model that many of us discussed trying to recreate for our own children in where we send them to high school. What we had at Montclair High School was magical and we all knew it.
I marveled later at how we all reached back while staying in the present. We shared stories of our children and our parents and the classmates we’ve lost. I now know the family life of every one with whom I spoke but I have no idea what anyone does for a living, nor in how big a house he or she lives. While we spoke of our lives it was clear that we were connecting with our teenage past, a time before any of us had reason to walk through the world guarded by adult wounds. I felt as if these old friends knew me better than anyone else, for the joy and laughter in that room was so pure. Together, we were safe.
That Saturday evening proved to be five hours of fabulous, a respite from the often
stark reality of the present. Earlier that day our beloved Uncle Frank passed away unexpectedly. Family and friends gathered together for three days to mourn our loss. We think of this time in terms of a wake and a funeral, but in truth, is it not really a reunion of a different sort? Membership in our clan means being able to follow eight conversations at the same time. This man we buried was the one quiet listener who always remembered your successes and travails. There are eleven of us cousins; the eldest eight being born within five years. We’ve always been close so very few of the mourners were strangers to me.
We adult cousins still do our best to keep in close contact. These relationships were cemented by the value that our mothers put on creating celebrations throughout our lives filled with tradition. Tradition serves such a wonderful purpose of adding certainty in an uncertain world. My siblings and I work very hard to find the time for our children to spend together. There are ten of them ranging from 6 years old to 20. The traditions we are creating are slightly different from the ones of our childhoods, but they ring true for the ten children who embrace them.
Two people very close to me may soon join Uncle Frank in eternity. The enormity of these present and future losses enveloped me last week. How could the people who make up so many of my happy memories not exist in the future memories of my children? Then again, maybe the memories already created are enough.
Thanksgiving Day is the most celebrated day of reunions that we have in this country. As I look around the table tomorrow, I will do my best to bathe in the warmth of those who are there and not worry about the time their absence will be permanent. I pray that all of you have your own beautiful day of reunions. Happy Thanksgiving!