I’m sitting on the deck of our home at Rainbow Lake. A lone chickadee hops from branch to branch and then vanishes into the thicket of trees. I can see the shimmer of the setting sun reflecting from the water below us. Only patches of the lake can be seen, we need to trim a few trees so I can watch the kayakers splash by on warm afternoons.
I hear the distinct honking of the Canadian Geese as they fly overhead and set their internal compass on south. Their skein is visible for a brief moment above my head through the only patch of open sky on our property.
Just a week ago, I too, headed south. Back to my hometown. Back to a monumental reunion of my classmates, fifty long years after we graduated from Owego Free Academy. At this very hour, one week ago, I was mingling with men and women that were once the boys and girls of my class. Grey hair was dominant. A cane here. A limp there. But, considering the changes that took place in the past half-century, my classmates fared well. Extraordinarily well. Last Friday night was the mixer. I had to read names tags carefully, since I hadn’t seen these people in decades. I did not watch them age because I did not stay in my hometown. I saw them on a day in June 1965, and now I was seeing many of them for the first time since.
The next night was the Big Event. It was the dinner and dance. I found out that I was one of the few speakers on the program to make remarks. I was to follow shortly after the poem that remembered those of us who had passed away. Tough act to follow.
I was very nervous. Many in the ballroom had read my blogs, many had followed my Facebook posts. Many had little idea of who I had become.
My talk seemed a blur to me as I tried to bring humor and nostalgia together. Was I funny? Was I confusing? Was I making a fool of myself? I’ll never know.
I watched, with a wet eye, as Judy walked across the dance floor and became our “Senior Prom Queen”. I learned that she had to move half-way through our senior year to join her mother–she missed the prom. Now, this was her moment. Her gown was that of a princess. Her husband wore a tux. I looked at my wool blazer and felt underdressed.
Across the dinner table were dear old friends, including my childhood sweetheart. She and I and her BFF from elementary school went to the photo booth.
I’ve been dreading this reunion in a way. I knew it was going to be a splash of cold water–something to force me to face the fearful fact of how fast time goes by and how we succumb to the years and how we face mortality. I had to face the fact that, unpleasant as it is, I may never see some of these people again.
But, that dinner-dance was a moment in the present. Some danced at the oldies like any of the sock hops back in the day.
One can try to “stay forever young”, but everyone in that room was aware of the force that was beyond our control. The ticking of the clock–the pages of the calendar–the rising and setting of the sun.
But, for the moment, everyone was in the present. The only place to be, really.
Someday, a group of people will look back on the weekend of September 11 & 12, 2015 and say: “Those were the days.”
[Photo of a man with a microphone trying to make some sense]