There are many kinds of friendship
Monday, August 05, 2013 3:47 AM
"The weekend exceeded all of my expectations!"
Spouse Roger and his friend and high school classmate, John Stewart, were basketball co-captains and reminisce over one of the basketball trophies their team won during their senior year.
That was the email I received from Eleanor, one of my high school classmates who is also a friend and, coincidently, my cousin by marriage. What a great way to sum up our hometown's anniversary and all-school reunion a couple of weeks ago.
I think we all felt that way; I know I certainly did. Seeing some friends from high school that I had not seen or heard from in 50 years or more was pretty special. And there have been so many things to think about, and experiences to process, since the event that I still have not "put it to bed."
It did remind me of the difference in how we, in our culture, experience friendship. In other more traditional - older - cultures, friendship is a lifetime experience. Friends are friends for every part of their lives and for life. It is summed up by the fact that in most other cultures, people have fewer friends but much deeper and longer friendships.
In our newer and highly mobile culture, we use the term "friend" very loosely. Politicians and other public figures are known to send out form letters, writing to "my friend," when in actuality they've never met the recipient.
We also compartmentalize our friends. We have a set of friends for work, another for the neighborhood, another for golf, another for church, and more for other kinds of social activities. We generally don't mix them up.
If the situation changes, such as new workplace, new geographic location, or other kind of change, we develop new sets of friends. Our contact with the old ones lessens, eventually to only a greeting at holiday time, and often to no contact at all. We mean well, but we get busy.... So as a culture we are known for having many surface friends but few very deep and lifelong friendships.
From what I observed at this and previous get-togethers, the exceptions to this general rule are in the small town's people who did not move away. Their circles of active friends still include the friends from high school. Of course it helps that some of those married high school sweethearts soon after graduation. While those couples do not all still live in that small town, of the five couples in our class and the one ahead of us who married classmates, four of the five are still married after more than 50 years!
I will admit to being half of the one couple that married back then and got divorced. However, I believe I made up for that by marrying a different classmate when we were both 55 years old!
Of course part of our leave-taking at the end of the weekend was the discussion about if and when there would be another reunion. The local people who have planned and implemented all three of the all-school reunions and this year's 150th anniversary celebration have said all along that this is the last one that they will do. If it is going to happen, that ball will have to be picked up by someone else.
Of course that reminded us all of our age. At the Saturday evening dinner, we were seated by class. The oldest graduates (from 1939!) went through the buffet line to get their food first; they were seated closest to the food tables. We from the class of '58 were about one fourth of the way back. But when we talked about doing this again in 10 years, it was pointed out that by then, we would be close to first in line.
I suggested that with today's technology, the planners would not have to be physically located in our hometown; maybe some of us could do it. Then Eleanor pointed out technology. If we were going to accomplish the planning, etc., remotely using modern technology, "would we have kept up enough to use the new?"
That's a good question. We'd better start right now in recruiting some younger folks to carry this on, since who knows what we will be like in 10 years. It is so easy to assume we'll always be whatever age we are at that moment. There is a future challenge in recruiting, too, since the last graduating high school class was in 1990 (the grade school closed in 1994).
All in all, the weekend certainly did exceed my expectations. While I did get to talk with a lot of people with whom I was close so long ago, I did not get around to everyone with whom I would like to have spent some time. Some of the conversations with others were fragmented: we would have bits of conversation here and there at different times over the weekend. We had some more quiet time while "marching" in the parade. That turned out to be mostly for laughing but that was an important part of the experience too.
I have been concerned that we would all go to our far-off homes in all different directions and without thinking about it, jump into "business as usual." I really am going to try to do better at staying in touch with those friends from so long ago. This was a good reminder of how special they were then, and still are. Or at least can be again.