UNITED STATES—What makes a reunion both classic and classy? Is it long-lost friends, acquaintances and near strangers meeting up again to discover how much they are united by common memories? Is it where dozens of friendships are created or rekindled with a depth that simply couldn't have been possible in high school? Where superficiality and boastfulness are checked at the door and all that enters is a warmth and unconditional appreciation for those with whom we were raised and with whom we are delighted to realize how much we share in our common history? Is it the knowledge of life's challenges beyond the big game and a date for the prom to a deeper awareness of the fragility of life and a newfound, profound sense of gratefulness that all of us in attendance are, well, all here?
I can only speak for my 40th high school reunion, a class of over 600 in the Midwest where a large percentage are now scattered across the country and a few around the world. A class where about 5 percent are scattered through the heavens, having left us far too soon. At my reunion, however, I felt as close to those who were gone as I felt to those who were there. They were given a tribute that put a humanity to their photos displayed on a screen and for that brief moment, we were the entire class of 1964.
Which may make you wonder why I'm writing about a reunion that occurred nearly 2 years ago. The answer is simply that the reunion is not yet over and evidence is mounting that it may never end. Why? Because mini-reunions are taking place across the country. Some take a train from St Louis to Chicago to share memories and a Cardinals/Cub game. Cincinnati, New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., San Diego, Houston, Los Angeles, Kansas City, Austin and dozens of other cities find alumni who make plans to gather and gab. And they are evolving from stories of the good ole days to current events in our lives that keep us fresh, interested and interesting.
But how did this all come about? How can so many people from so many places find out who lives where and plan an event like this? Isn't this daunting and ultimately not worth all the effort that it would take to plan such a convoluted rendezvous?
Yes, unless you were lucky enough to have a classmate like we do, who, a year before our reunion, took the time to set up a website for our class. He invited us to speak openly and freely, first to fill everyone in on the last 40 years and then to just see where it goes. The site took on a life of its own. People began to talk about old times, places, teachers. Then it would move on to current events, feelings or favorite books, lots and lots of political opinions, jokes galore and more. Some would get upset at the politics or the onslaught of too many jokes. We were all gently reminded of that nifty "delete" key and everyone calmed down.
These reunions took flight because it was easy to set a time and place to meet. RSVPs were unnecessary. An alum might post online that he would be in Philadelphia and anyone who wanted to see him should meet at a certain restaurant at a designated time. There was always a gathering and they had the proof with pictures of the reunion posted to our site.
That's how I came to have an impromptu dinner with four classmates. One was captain of the cheerleaders, (who I discovered lives down the street from me) one was in the "popular" crowd, another was my elementary school friend and another was my longtime high school friend. So there we were, eating and chatting as though we hadn't missed a day in each other's lives in 40 years.
And so it goes, all over the country, all the time. And we owe it all to that one guy who cared enough to set up the Internet connection that led to a most personal connection among our classmates.
Thank you, Les Berger. Your name is the very definition of a classic, classy, class reunion.