REUNIONS IN SPRINGTIME
Reunions are a fact of life, but apparently are not viewed by all with the fuzzy and warm feelings usually associated with such events. A recent column (unnamed intentionally) contained some critical remarks about the need to attend reunions, but made the point that the fact of attending was rather unpleasant for many people. Because I am currently charged with and heading up a reunion for a 50th reunion, the comments gave some particular meanings to me. Furthermore, just in case I had missed the point of the article, one of the members of the class actually called me and explained his indecision about whether to attend or not. He said, " I want to attend, and I don't want to attend, if you know what I mean." In fact I did seem to understand his dilemma with further explanation, and I passed on to him my blessings as he tried to make a final decision. Perhaps it would be good to ponder the reasons for such ambivalence regarding reunions.
First, let it be said that for those who tend to participate in reunions regularly, there seems to be a genuine joy in seeing old friends and acquaintances (not enemies perhaps). Sharing laughs and telling tales of earlier times and incidents seems to provide a measure of carthartic pleasure for most people. So on the positive side, we have the good vibrations and pleasant sensations from merely seeing, talking to, and possibly hugging old friends. Second, there is the element of curiosity involved in attending reunions. Many, if not most people, enjoy hearing about the advantures of classmates, especially the exotic ones that have occurred in distant parts of the world. Furthermore, many people seem to be curious about how well other classmates have fared in the race and chase for fame and fortune. While some cynical members may feel slightly less successful than the beautiful and wealthy classmates who return, overall it appears that most are primarily interested in just what and how their classmates fared in facing the challenges of making a life for themselves. Third, most people enjoy going to a different location, usually a hotel or resort in another city. They are able to let their hair down and talk about themselves with no family members (sometimes) present to remind them of the nuts and bolts of life.
Now, let us consider some reasons for the negative vibrations associated with attending reunions. First, there are the obvious feelings of knowing that the slim and beautiful young thing (handsome for men!) that described you years ago is no longer correct. Many women are no longer sweet things, and men may be fat and bald (not that these are all bad). So, physical comparisons tend to add a note of sadness to reunions. Second, despite the good feelings about the success of ones classmates, there are the inevitable invidious comparions to those whose fortunes have been so much better than some others. Human nature seems to dictate that some this activity will take place in such settings. Third, there are the travel and expense concerns for those who are in poor health or who have financial constraints. While most people are able to overcome the financial ones, the fact remains that for some the concerns are real and must be given some weight.
How should one evaluate and assess the benefits and costs as listed here? It is also true that there are other concerns in addition to those mentioned here, but it seems to be a matter of ordering ones priorities. If you assign a high weight to the accolades of your peers (classmates), then your priority for attending will be quite high. If you assign a low weight to what others feel or think about you and your career (successes/failures), then your priority for attending will be low to zero. Most people probably fall between the obvious choices of yes and no decisions. Yet, for each individual there will be some enjoyment of various activities in a reunion so that if a variety of activities are included besides the Saturday night dance and banquet many will assign a high enough priority so that attending seems to be the obvious decision. Thus, reunions may engender seconds thoughts in some, and may evoke negative feelings for others, many classmates will find the opportunity to meet and visit with old acquaintances to good to pass up. These members will attend and they will enjoy themselves, because they understand that each life is interesting if the story is told well, and they understand that those who have survived so far have some implied obligation to do something deceased members are absolutely unable to to. This is the stark and sober reality that drives reunions and makes it possible for many attendees to enjoy another of the episodes in life when you may step back in time and out of your daily routine of today, even if only for a brief moment of innocent pleasure.