I just spent the weekend in another city with a bunch of people most of whom I hadn’t seen for twenty years. All-but-one-or-two of those people I met for the first time in another country when we worked together on a kids’ summer camp. It was a wonderful reunion, none of us has changed a bit…on the inside.
We didn’t stop talking at each other and laughing over the old stories (of which there were approximately 10476 or was it 10477, I lose count). We laughed and scoffed over the old photographs of us looking smooth-skinned and youthful and in the way we all know we still are…on the inside.
A word did come to mind though as we gassed and laughed and drank.
Ironic really as way back then, before setting out for those foreign shores we had been coraled albeit separately in the Spring of ’88, for an orientation course by the organisers of these student jollies that told us a little about the process of getting there, working and living there and how to think about what to do in terms of travel if any of us had time and cash left afterwards.
The vertiginous feeling of reuniting with very familiar faces with whom we had all had a deep friendship so long ago. Some had stayed in touch of course and there had been occasional sightings and visits over the winding course of three decades. But, this reunited group was much of the hardcore of Brits who had corresponded fervently for weeks and months and sometimes years after our American rite of passage. We were, back then, perhaps clinging on to the exuberance of that summer, trying not to admit that we were all back in Blighty and student studies had to be begun again or, perish the thought, jobs sought.
Disorientation at how after 30 years we mostly all had families, some of whom were grown up. We had all taken very disparate routes to other foreign shores for long and short trips. We had all eventually got very different jobs and made some amazing career choices that might never have come to mind when we were working in 96 degree heat among those not-so-lonesome pines.
We had all constructed new circles of friends with whom we had all created strong bonds in the intervening years. But, there was this feeling when we all looked at each and talked and drank that although our heads were full of the faces of newer friends and the experiences we had all had since we last met, that this strange shared experience of a summer working on a kids camp in West Virginia had taken us down so many country roads and yet we were still in the same place…on the inside.
Strange how nostalgia hits you in the stomach and brings a lump to your throat and puts a teardrop in your eye…almost Heaven.
Oh, and one more thing, I didn’t go bare-chested at any point during the reunion…despite their endless demands, hahaha.
Afterthought: Readers will no doubt have got the feeling that we all just picked up where we left off all those years ago. It’s true. And, almost everyone has similar experiences to report when being reunited with old friends. It is amazing that it seems to work like that. I think the “Dunbar number” theory about how many people a human can “keep” in their head in terms of social connection needs to be updated. Fundamentally, there may well be a limit to the number in any single clique or group to which we belong, but I reckon there is a layer above that. We can perhaps belong to many different groups and have a large number of connections in each of those too. Well, that’s my experience.
Then, there is the disorientation one feels when those different groups overlap or meet. That whole “So….how do *you* two know each other?” syndrome. It’s a fascinating social PhD to be undertaken, I reckon.
Inevitably, I wrote a song.