As is the case for most readers, I’ve attended my share of reunions over the years. High School reunions, university home-comings, class reunions, and work-related reunions.
These events often involve dinners, speeches, pub crawls, site visits and dances. It is always great fun to see former classmates and former colleagues, to reminisce, and to recall accomplishments.
I often leave such reunions with mixed feelings. Part of me is happy that I attended but part of me is left unsatisfied. The superficial contacts with others feel inadequate. Although resolutions to ‘stay in touch’ are mouthed, the reality is that we return to our homes, families and current commitments. The reunion is soon forgotten, except, perhaps, when an annual holiday or birthday wish is exchanged by email.
I recognize that life has moved along — for me, and also for others. What we once had in common is insufficient for significant engagement. Shared experiences in the past don’t mean as much as the experiences that shape our daily reality.
This post is about two reunions in my life this month. One already happened; the other will happen on this coming weekend.
A Special Reunion
There is an annual reunion, however, that remains special. It is a gathering that happens on a September Saturday. On this day a group of women meet together to renew relationships that began in the ’70s when we worked together as teachers, child and youth workers, social workers, and psychometrists in a children’s mental health centre.
For most of us this was the first of many professional roles. We were young with newly-minted degrees. We had little actual experience with children but we shared a vision of creating a better life for the children and adolescents.
The agency was also relatively new having been formed just a few years previously under the leadership of a young child psychiatrist. The field of child and adolescent psychiatric treatment was developing as was the field of family therapy. Opportunities for learning abounded. Visiting academics challenged us and we challenged each other. A wonderful reciprocity between young, visionary staff and a new agency resulted in many treatment successes for children and families.
As time passed, most of us left that agency seeking progressive positions, seeking more education, or different careers. However, relationships did not end. We stayed in touch — some women in the group enjoy close friendships with one another, some play bridge together; others see one another infrequently, sometimes only once a year at this reunion.
We began the annual get together ten or twelve years ago (nobody remembers quite when) and it’s become a cherished tradition. Everyone brings food and drink to share. Sometimes we tell and re-tell familiar stories, but most often the time is used to catch up on personal and family events. We share pictures, laugh, and, occasionally, cry together. Special life events such as retirements, anniversaries and birthdays are celebrated.
Aside from the pleasure of re-connecting with each other, this annual gathering provides a time to make new memories. Through the years, interpersonal bonds have grown stronger and friendships have deepened. We feel free to be ourselves, express our feelings, and make mistakes without judgement or criticism. A shared chemistry and common values make for stability in the relationships we have with each other.
Another Type of Reunion
Next weekend, we will see each other again but the gathering will be much larger as it will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the children’s mental health centre where we met each other. I look forward to that anniversary reunion but I expect different interactions among those attending. The shared history will be part of the event, but there won’t be the same deep connections with one another. It will be a ‘one-off’.
Evidence shows that most people do not keep close connections with workplace colleagues. At the reunion, each of us will remember the time we worked together with fondness. It was a special mix of people. Marriages, partnerships and friendships happened.
I hope there will be name tags as I’m sure that all of us will have difficulty remembering names or, even recognizing one another as the years will have added both pounds and wrinkles. There will be great stories; we’ll exchange contact information; we’ll celebrate shared successes and disappointments. At the end of the weekend, we’ll go back to our current lives filled with remnants of the energy and enthusiasm of former times.
Reunions serve as reminders of life changes. Whenever I meet with people who shared important aspects of my life, I realize how many have helped me grow into who I am today. My identity is reinforced. The laughter and good times feed my soul.
I’ll keep attending reunions — but will choose the events carefully. However, I do hope that our ‘special’ women’s reunion continues for years and years to come!
I’m interested in hearing about reader experiences with reunions. Did friendships get renewed? Were you disappointed that you attended? Have you stayed in touch with people with whom you re-connected at a reunion? I look forward to your comments!
Here are links to other posts where I have written about reunion experiences: Why attend reunions?
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