Saturday, July 9, 2016

Playing With Friends

I’m an adult now.
--Okay, I can’t even write that without giggling. I should qualify that: my driver’s license says I am, and my kids say I look like one.
Every so often I get to go out and play with my friends, my old friends from the old neighborhood and school (not just high school, but even before that). Little mini-reunions.

A word about reunions: GO. I don’t care if you ‘never hung out with anyone in high school,’ or if you ‘don’t care to see any of those people again,’ or even if you subscribe to the ‘no looking back’ theory. I hear some of you talk about being old, and it is never a celebratory statement. (I hate that, by the way, because we are the same age and I am not ‘old’!) The people of our past encapsulate whatever time period they were a part of. Collectively, they hold (in a sense) our youth; we, all of us together, are each other’s time keepers. Spending time with them in a group is like an injection of that youth, because we see each other as we were, and that brings out what we were at that time. Remember, too, that we now have the advantage about being very selective about which parts of our past we choose to dust off and bring out. Childhood without the drama. Pure, unadulterated childhood.

I won’t go on; this isn’t the first time I’ve talked about this, and I’d hazard a guess that it won’t be the last.

How we started these ‘mini-reunions’ was sort of by accident. Many of us still live close to the area we grew up in. One friend that I knew from high school, middle school, and my old neighborhood was playing in a band locally. A few of us went to see him, and ran into a few other friends from school and we took a picture. The funny thing was that all of us in the picture had gone to middle school together, and the picture was posted on Facebook as a mini middle school reunion.

-- To those of you that feel that the internet and technology have destroyed all forms of human contact and communication: keep an eye out for my rebuttal blog.

That first picture got a lot of attention and comments like How come no one told me? and When are you doing it again? After that we began planning these gatherings, and because we are at the age where when we talk about old friends we are combining all of them from every year and overlapping period, anyone who had anything to do with any of us is invited.

That was 3 years ago, and we’ve managed to squeeze in 5 or 6 of these gatherings since then, each one getting a little larger.

Last night we had another one of our mini-reunion gatherings. It was actually our biggest one yet, and extra special to me because an old family-neighborhood-school friend was going to be there who hasn’t lived in this state in a number of years (a big number - decades). And we had our ‘regulars’, ‘new regulars’ and even newer faces show up. Every time a new face comes in, it adds so much more to the night.

We all sat together at the table and talked. And laughed. And just enjoyed each other’s company the same way we did back then. As it got later in the evening, the crowd in the restaurant got younger, and they probably looked at us as if we were ‘the old table’, but we didn’t know it; we were just kids hanging out with other kids. And drinking legally.

I was bouncing around the table, taking pictures and trying to make sure I got a chance to get in on every conversation, but at one point I just sat there and looked around. It’s really quite a rush to be in that kind of space, seeing so many familiar faces together again, feeling that energy

If I were a filmmaker I’d recreate the same scene this way: the setting would be a school cafeteria, and all of us would be about 10 years old. The friends who brought their wives or boyfriends would be shown showing up separately, each another 10 year old bringing another ‘new friend’ to the table (they’d be holding hands as they came over - the ‘old’ friend a step ahead, pulling the ‘new’ friend on in). The conversation, though, would be exactly the same as it was last night, full of ‘remember whens’, talk about jobs, marriages, divorce, children, grandchildren … and life.

That’s what it felt like, sitting there and looking around the table. The odd dream of the blend of then and now, familiar faces with new stories. Time travel without technology. Every moment (past, present, and future) occurring at the same time. Proof that time is not linear but simultaneous, each period stacked one on top of the other like 45’s on a spindle, with easy access to whenever you want to be. The collapsing of time and space.

I still see all of us as we were, even if our conversation is more adult (somewhat). I feel me as I was when I spent most of my time with them, too. There is a happy surprise in seeing someone you haven’t seen in a while who, while they are talking about new things, does something or says something in a way that is old and familiar. They haven’t changed. We haven’t changed; there is just more to us.

But the best of us, the kid in all of us, is still there. And even if we find ourselves unable to incorporate that child into our adult lives, we still have the opportunity to visit him or her once in a while.

It’s rejuvenating.


Get it while you can.