Yesterday, a lovely group of individuals gathered together to share a meal and several hours of lively conversation. It was the 4th annual reunion of SJSU English professors and students, who became friends during the 1970′s and 1980′s, and then followed various paths until re-connecting in 2009.
Thirty-five years ago, I was an undergraduate student in English at San Jose State University. I was new to the bay area and a returning college student in my late 20′s and knew no one. One day, a professor I liked a lot asked me to join him and some friends for coffee before class. My shyness almost kept me from going, but curiosity beat back my shyness, and I went. Consequently, I found a group of friends who made me feel “at home” for the first time in my life.
These like-minded individuals shared my interests. Everyone read AND talked about what they had read. Everyone had strong opinions and stated them. We all watched PBS and went to art house films, so we had people to talk with about what we watched. We talked politics, and sometimes we even gossiped. It was a heady time; it was invigorating; it was comfortable; it was pure joy!
But even better, our egalitarian group of people was open-hearted. Everyone and anyone who wanted to be part of the group was welcome and made to feel so. We celebrated Fridays together, graduations together, holidays together, major birthdays and anniversaries together, weddings together, and new babies together. In fact, the last time I met with all of them as a group before our reunions began was in 1990 at Lisa’s baby shower.
In our group, Lisa and I were particular friends. She had been my doula for Gavin’s birth. We saw each other through marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Her son and my youngest child are the same age. Though our lives went in markedly different directions for awhile, we kept in touch, and we kept each other up-to-date on whatever we learned about our group of friends.
Though my children knew only a few of the members of our group, this group of friends loomed large in my children’s lives. They grew up hearing numerous stories about everyone in the group, and this group gained an almost mythic stature in my children’s eyes. They expected to have the same experience when they went to college. Alas, that has not been the case. While they have formed some friendships, they have not found a group like the one I found so long ago.
I talked with one of the Scotts in our group, and he said around the 1990′s, something changed. Individuals still made friendships, but a lovely, lively group like we had so enjoyed didn’t seem to happen very often anymore. Theories abound as to why not, but it mostly remains a mystery.
Our group was and is special. Though we had our occasional ups and downs and intrigues, mostly we had an abiding fondness for each other. So, when Nancy and Lisa ran into each other in 2009, they thought it would be fun to hunt everybody up and get together again to catch up on our lives Those who could make the reunion in 2009 had so much fun, picking up where we left off, that we decided to meet up on a yearly basis; thus, our annual reunion was born.
We are mostly gray haired now, and we range in age from fifty-three to eighty-seven. Our children, if we chose to have them, are grown, and some of us have grandchildren. Some of us are still working, and some of us are retired. But despite the differences and all the years apart, our fondness for each other and delight in each other is as sure and true now as it was way back when.
I can’t speak for the others in our group, but these people are, in some way I cannot explain, part of my core being. With them, I found my first “home,” and that sense of home is one that stays in my heart always.
I am grateful and blessed to know these people, and I can’t wait until next year’s reunion!