Maybe it all depends on how you define home.
The high school I graduated from in North Miami, Florida, has been torn down and the areas around the original site are now a blight. The old neighborhoods are unrecognizable and some are even dangerous. Very little is the way it was when we were young.
Still, this past weekend 50 of my high school friends gathered on a Florida beach to celebrate a shared milestone birthday. Former classmates traveled from Texas, Colorado, Massachusetts, Illinois . . . and of course, every corner of Florida, to be together. It was important.
For us, it’s not the geographical location that matters, it’s the community we have built with each other that we return to again and again.
Many of those who come to these events are people I hardly remember from my high school years. We didn’t hang out. We weren’t necessarily in the same clubs or activities. We didn’t go to movies as a group, date each other, or apply to the same colleges.
We are now siblings in a far-flung family. The same music thrums its sound track in our memories. At the mention of a particular teacher, we smile and nod knowingly, sometimes rolling our eyes. Someone talks about the street where their family used to live and we all picture the neighborhood as it was then, not in its present crumbling state.
Our shoulders sag spontaneously at the name of another of our classmates who has died. So many. So many, we incant.
Our lives all ripple outward from that shared beginning and now we fill in the blanks for each other, with news of the joyous arrival of children (and lately, grandchildren); the crushing loss of parents, spouses, and sadly, even beloved sons and daughters. Some of us have suffered the fracturing of one or more marriages, others the loss of health.
There are those who found their significance in career success, others who were marked by stunning loss. More than a few lived in a desperate silence that has finally been broken.
Comfort is there in the sharing of both the blessings and the burdens.
In the early days, those whose lives were in shambles opted out of these gatherings. (Who comes to a high school reunion on the heels of a divorce, job loss, or recent release from prison?) I admit I missed a few because of my own shame.
But now, we’re more comfortable with our shortcomings and failures.
We are no longer defined by who we were at 17, even in the eyes of those who were 17 with us.
We’re a little battle-worn and weary, a bit frayed around the edges but softer at our center. We’re inclined to care much and judge little. We love more readily these days.
For the time we’re together, we are a community experiencing life in its fullness. We are back “home”.
We yearn for this: for love that lasts, for long-term friends who never stop caring, for togetherness that extends beyond a weekend.
It feels good.
How do you define home? What would it be like for you to go back there?
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- The best question I’m asking myself these days - July 18, 2016
- A tragic story with a tender twist - May 17, 2016
- Gosh, people are a mess - May 12, 2016
- I’ll take the red carnation, thank you – revisiting an odd tradition - May 2, 2016
- The surprising thing about “weakness” - April 20, 2016
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