Saturday, September 26, 2009

In Search of...a way to go home again

Thanks to Facebook, there I was, going to another reunion of sorts, this time of six women I hadn't seen in more than twenty-five years. I was apprehensive about going, but I still couldn't put my finger on why. These were all nice people about whom I felt no ill will or unfinished business.

Maybe it was curiosity. Maybe it was coercion. But I found myself driving to a kosher deli in New York to meet up with complete strangers with whom I shared a history of long forgotten birthday parties, neighborhood stores that have gone out of business, and high school teachers whose names have largely been relegated to the annals of old yearbooks.

There was only one person in this group with whom I'd had any contact - Lisa. And that was only in the past six months or so, also thanks to Facebook. So I picked Lisa up at the train station and we nervously headed over together.

A few deep breaths and off we went, cheerfully smiling and greeting the rest who had gathered so far. We did the perfunctory "you haven't changed a bit" chatter, awkwardly hugged, and then went inside - minus one for whom a kosher deli wasn't kosher enough. (She would meet us later on at what, unbeknownst to me, must be an ultra kosher place - Starbucks. Truly, I had no idea.)

Over pastrami, knishes, and old photographs we went around the table and tried to catch each other up on the high points of the past twenty-five years of our lives. Among the six gathered, three were married and three were single. The married women had a total of eight children - six girls and two boys. This would later be topped by the woman who joined us who had seven children, bringing the total number of children of these four women to a staggering fifteen.

All but yours truly had remained in the tri-state area and had never lived anywhere else. We caught up on our siblings, on their families, and on whose parents had passed away. Then we switched to the topic of old classmates and who'd been in touch with whom on Facebook or anywhere else. I found myself searching the recesses of my mind to put faces with the names they were mentioning, but I came up empty time and time again. I had no faces with the names and no memories with the faces I could come up with. Had I blocked it out? Had I simply forgotten?

I wanted to find some shred of longing for the time in my life these people occupied, but I could find none. I wanted to feel a sense of belonging, a sense of being known, understood and valued for who I am, but all the wishing could not make it so. It was pleasant, it was fun, but it was superficial.

I wanted to know if these were the kind of people on whom I could rely if I needed them in crisis. That is the yardstick by which I measure my real friends. I wanted to know what dreams they had realized and what still left them yearning for more. I wanted to know their greatest successes and biggest disappointments. I wanted some meat on the table other than the pastrami.

I do not consider myself a superficial or frivolous person, and I consider life to be too short to waste even this one precious evening that was twenty-five years in the making on minutia. But that's exactly what we did. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe it was more realistic to ease into this new phase of our lives with pleasantries.

I noticed that as we parted outside in the rain that no one exchanged phone numbers or emails. There was some talk that we should do this again, but no one said it with particular conviction. We hugged, still awkwardly and went our separate ways.

I drove Lisa to the city and we too hugged goodbye. The reunion was over.

I drove home in the rain trying to make sense of what I was feeling. It was gratitude. I found myself thanking my lucky stars for the people in my life - the ones who share a past and a present that we created by choice and not just geographic proximity. I found myself grateful for the decisions I had made over the years, even the bad ones for those too shaped who I am. I felt humbled and grateful that this evening had taken place because regardless of whether or not I ever see these people again, they each contributed to my life in some way.

We don't often get to go home again, so to those who met me there I wish you lives of fulfillment and joy. Until we meet again...

Thanks for stopping by.


  1. Since last night, I've had Janis Ian's "At Seventeen" in my head. I don't know why.

    How fitting that this reunion took place the day before Yom Kippur, which is a time of serious reflection on one's life. And believe me, I've been doing a lot of reflecting.

  2. Janis Ian, I'm proud to say, lives in Nashville.As you can tell, I too have been reflecting.