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Reunion Season: Back to Campus, and to New Old Friends

Posted: 06/15/10 02:09 PM ET

This is how comfortable it was: Her husband had had a question, she admitted, about a long-lost lover.

"Will Bill be there?"

Yes, she'd told him -- Bill will be there.

"Oh, good!" said the husband. "Then I don't have to go!"

Welcome back to campus.

It's been five years since our last gathering, and decades since the first time around, the time that had stamped us and sent us on our way. A round-number reunion, this one, and so the crowd was larger, the hugs more heartfelt.

Even the hugs of strangers. Didn't matter.

We gave ourselves permission to be instant intimates. There was the candor of the confessional, but no novenas. All topics were available, all judgments withheld.

Improbable. Wonderful.

So we sat side by side in a classroom and whispered just like old times -- except that we hadn't actually known the person whose ear we were now murmuring into. Still, we'd been there together, more or less -- in the same place, in the same time, once upon a time -- so somehow it was perfectly OK.

It was OK to talk about almost anything this time. To hear about almost anything.

This is how open it was: I was even able to fess up to the full extent of my drug use during those four shake-the-rafters years so long ago.

(None.)

Parallel universes: There are our college friends, and our college-reunion friends. In some cases, the two groups barely overlap. Some of the people whose company we've grown to enjoy so much, whose thoroughly comfortable, amazingly renewable, whisper-in-the-ear-ness we've come to slip on every five years like a favorite pair of jeans, are people we didn't even know back then. Who were way too cool (or too smart, or too tall, or too political, or too apolitical, or too something, or not-enough something) to cross paths with the likes of us.

Or who just lived in a different dorm freshman year. Or had a different major. Or...

What hits home again, as it does every time we do this thing, is the utter randomness of so much of it, even on a campus as tiny as ours was. Even with a population as small as ours was.

Everything happens for a reason, we kept reminding ourselves. Sometimes the reason is: chance.

We talked about the spouses. (Most of the comments were kind.) We talked about the children, and showed pictures of the grandkids. We sat talking in function rooms until they started folding up the tables all around us, and then we found other places to sit, or stand, or walk, and talk some more. The hills on campus had grown steeper somehow -- didn't matter. We kept talking.

There was dancing, that final night -- hits from all eras, for all the reunion classes, and the dance floor filled in an instant. And nobody said, "You call that music? Why, back in my day..."

At any rate, we couldn't hear anybody say that. The music was too good, whenever it came from. Good and loud.

It wasn't sex, drugs and rock 'n 'roll -- but it wasn't Viagra and an iPod either.

I never made it to the dance floor. Too many conversations, too little time.

But the next round doesn't have to wait another five years. There was Facebook, of course, but the best talk, even with almost-strangers, is still face-to-face. Some of the alumni who lived nearby and had only now re-connected were planning another get-together soon.

"You should come, too," one of the women told another, who lived hundreds of miles away. "You can stay at my house."

"That's so sweet of you!" the other woman replied, genuinely touched. "We don't even know each other!"

"Then we'll get to know each other!"

They'd once been in the same place, in the same time.

It was reason enough.

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Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at rickhoro@execpc.com.

 

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