After my 20th high school reunion in 1985, I was determined never to attend another one! Yet there was a remarkable allure when another invitation arrived 30 years later. Imagine, 50 years gone by in the blink of an eye. The list of potential attendees was much shorter than it had been thirty years earlier. ‘They’re dropping like flies’ had now become a commonplace phrase, unfortunately. But curiosity got the better of this cat, and I contacted the few people who had been my closest friends. Only one of them expressed any interest in attending. A gala affair was being planned. Would classmates be willing or able to pay the high cost, especially those traveling from afar? Would this reunion be any different than the one 30 years prior? Good news. One of my closest friends would be attending. So, I decided to ‘reach out’ to him, as the saying goes.
“Hey, Barney! I hope you remember me from Monroe High School all those years ago. I don’t plan on attending the 50th Reunion, so I thought I would reminisce about something that popped into my mind when I noticed your name on the reunion list. Tell me if you remember this. I think we were both in 8th grade at Monroe. It was a bitter, snowy day walking home from school. I was lugging an armful of books and my trumpet case, too. As I trudged onward, I noticed that you were walking a couple of blocks ahead of me. By the time I made it to your house, you were already headed to the side door, ignoring my shouts of ‘wait up, Barney!’ But either you didn’t hear me, or had decided to avoid me. Man, was I ticked off! So I made a big, fat snowball, and threw it at you just as you opened the side door to your house. That snowball somehow made its way into the hallway as you walked in, splattering your face with cold, wet snow. I picked up my books and trumpet, feeling vindicated. You turned around in a flash and walked quickly up your sidewalk, a threatening look on your face. Honestly, I thought you were going to punch me in the face! Instead, you ripped all my books from my hands into the snow. Luckily, you didn’t touch my trumpet case! Revenge duly delivered, you spun around and calmly walked back into your house, leaving me to gather my books for the rest of my walk home. Do you remember this, Barney? If so, please allow me to apologize, albeit 57 years late!”
Barney did indeed answer with his own email. “Wow, Jeff. It is so wonderful to hear from you after all these years! I wracked my brain, but I have absolutely no recollection of the incident you described!”
“Good! Maybe now I can finally stop feeling guilty about it!”
Neither Barney nor I attended the reunion. Instead, he drove down to Virginia on his way to visit relatives in North Carolina, spending a couple of days with Cass and me on the way. When Barney arrived, we both stood silently for several moments, staring at each other.
“Fifty-seven years . . . and you still look the same as the last time I saw you!” he said.
We hugged. We smiled. We talked. All afternoon. About our children and grandchildren. Our lives. We enjoyed dinner out that evening, introducing Barney to Richmond neighborhoods. All too soon, it was time for him to continue his journey south. We both wondered about the future. Would we have the chance to meet again? We hugged. Again. And shed a tear together. Best of all, we’ve remained in close contact since then, emailing, face-timing, and visiting in person whenever possible. And that’s when it finally hit me. Our earliest friendships are often the most meaningful ones.