Many important moments in my life have happened on this particular park bench.
(For anyone who is wondering, the white lines show the path of a major creek that ran through the city of Philadelphia back when it was first being built. )
I was fortunate enough to recently spend 3 days on a cruise to the Bahamas with about 50 of the people I went to high school with. First you need to know something about my high school. Zama High School was located on Camp Zama army base in Japan. We had a mix of army & navy brats and the children of civilians who worked for the military. We were a diverse group, born in all corners of the world. As is typical for schools on military bases it was very small, I think there was about 300 people in the entire school (9th through 12th grade) the year I graduated. Since Zama's graduating classes are small and we are spread all over the world, how do you have a high school reunion? Simple, our alumni association holds a "whole school" reunion every 2 years. This reunion is for anyone who every attended the school, graduate or not. The reunions are held as 3 day weekends in different places all over the US. From those reunions grew our annual 1980's decade mini-reunions. Think about it, when you were in high school, did you only have friends in your class? No, we all had friends younger & older. We have the perfect way to stay in touch with all of them. Which is what brought us all to Jan 25-28, 2008 and the cruise ship Carnival Fascination. Alumni, some spouses and significant others, some families, we gathered together to share a few days of reliving our childhoods.
So what happens when you take a bunch of teenagers who have all grown up with similar backgrounds and put them in a small environment in a foreign country. You end with some very unique relationships. Intense & deep run the emotions that form the base for these interactions. Then take these relationships and tear them up and down on a regular basis – such is the life of a military family. You have taken people at vulnerable steps in their formation as adults and entrenched in them the ability to love deeper than most and the ability to hold onto those emotions despite separations and disappointments. These are the amazing people who result from that kind of background.
Now fast forward a few years. There are ones who have stayed in close contact and others who are just finding the alumni association and their old friends. The one thing that is consistent is the affection we feel for one another. Any of the old high school acrimony seems to melt away as soon as those old familiar faces are in view.
The memories become happy. The teenage heartaches that we thought would kill us then are now fodder for sweet laughter. Old friendships are strengthened, high school acquaintances become new friendships and occasionally high school crushes are resurrected. For 3 days (or more when we can manage it), we are our young selves again, older & a little wiser, but in so many ways still the wonder filled teenagers we were in the 1980's. In those 3 days, which are generally filled with great food, much alcohol and inevitably a karaoke machine, we apply another layer of emotional cement to the relationships that started so many years ago. We rediscover all of the things that were so good and right about us and the people we care about. Most often being with these people brings out the best in us once more. Now I can never say for sure if it is nostalgia, selective memories or just an alcoholic haze, but it is as if all of the promise those days held is one again laid out before us, we are invincible and as long as we are together, all will always be right with the world. So, world be prepared, we will all be back together in New Orleans in July…..