Reunions Keep Us in Touch with Humanity

Society is abundant with reunions. Just look around you.

There are school reunions, military reunions, family reunions, and those associated with the work environment. There are reunions between neighborhood friends, ethnic sojourns, and others that might connect a particular interest or hobby.

I know. I’ve attended them all, at one time or another. Let’s get together for the sake of a reunion. Don’t you just love it?

I’ll tell you this much. The hardest promise to keep at any reunion is to keep in touch more often. As summer draws to a close, it’s the time of year for such social gatherings. Used to be letters or a call. Now, it’s all done electronically, provided your correspondent is tech-savvy. If not, you can always use a pen or the telephone.

I ask myself, why is it that at these affairs, everyone your age turns out to be a lot older than you are? And how come they’re so fat and bald, you don’t recognize them anymore?

My 55th high school reunion is just around the corner. Gulp! Has it been that long since I graduated from Somerville High School? Each year the turnout gets smaller and smaller. Attrition sets in. People die. Others lose interest.

But the chewing gum still hasn’t lost its flavor. We were a tight class. We go around poking one another in the ribs, careful not to rupture a disk, and relive the past. We wave our banners high and let success go to our heads.

Five years had passed, then 10. Before we knew it, a golden anniversary and members were in their late 60s. Only the limber did the limbo. Like the song from “La Cage Aux Folles,” the best of times is now and let the moments last.

Because you only live once. And if you do it up right, then once should be enough.

To anyone under the age of 18, it is completely incredible how anyone could live long enough to be out of high school for five decades. More incredible, still, is that after 50 or 55 years, graduates still have the vitality to celebrate their milestone.

At a reunion, it’s never too late to have a good time, unless you’re the tag-along. To those spouses not part of the graduating class, our condolences are extended.

Of course, even a tag-along can break the ice. I know a man who went up to one of the class officers and said, “Martha. I bet you don’t remember me.”

He clapped his hand over his name tag and gave her a sly look. Martha was the class beauty. She squirmed a little until he told her to relax—she had never seen him before in her life.

I never forget a face or a name. The trick is matching them. I blunder along and wonder if I’m losing friends by misidentifying them. It gets to be pretty embarrassing at trying to catch a glimpse of someone’s nametag or being overheard asking a friend.

What they ought to do at these meetings is attach the nametag to the back. That way you can sneak up on a classmate, read the name, then scoot around front and make an acquaintance.

The destructive ravages of time become pleasantly blurred by the soothing influence of a scotch ‘n soda as guests hail each other with hearty and boisterous fellowship. The music becomes more appropriate for listening than dancing, so long as it’s quiet.

I’ve been at some reunions where you’re forced to talk above the noise level and the conversation turns into a shouting match, provided you still have a voice.

At our 50th, friends who once tickled each other’s fancy a generation ago were still doing the same. The guy who had ambitions of becoming a banker went bankrupt in a business. The one who became a plumber had the best lifestyle and a gorgeous home.

The chorus still had a voice. The football captain walked around with a cane. The class nerd wound up the fitness buff. The class dunce made his million in property and investments. He enjoyed the last laugh. So did the class prankster. He wound up as a priest with a church of his own.

Vocations may be retired, but not memories. I only hope we have the initiative to live a long and healthy life—and continue our reunions every five years until they become annual out of necessity.

It’s moments like these when growing older becomes a lifeline.

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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