Saturday, March 06, 2010

Reunion Aversion

I don’t attend my high school class reunions. I am very selective about attending other types of reunions. A few years ago I attended a reunion of missionaries that served in the mission where I served. (Those familiar with LDS culture in the Wasatch Front area know that mission reunions are commonly held each six months, timed to coincide with the church’s general conferences.) The reunion I attended was OK. But I note that I haven’t bothered to attend subsequent ones.

I do, however, attend my wife’s high school class reunions. She derives much more enjoyment from these kinds of events than I do. Since I love her, I go with her.

During two of the years my wife was in college, she was a member of a performing folkdance group at the LDS institute of religion adjacent to the college. She and I courted during her final few months as a member of that group. Although my dancing skills were and are limited, I often attended the group’s practices, performances (as a spectator/helper), and socials. The group performed dances at our wedding reception.

Last weekend that folkdance group held a reunion for all 670+ people that have been members of the group at anytime during its 32-year existence. My wife was on the reunion committee. That meant that I was an adjunct member of the committee. I found that my place was to help with setup and cleanup, which was OK with me. This was the third such reunion of the group, with the first being 20 years ago and the second being 12 years ago.

We arrived a couple of hours before the event to get things set up. That situation required more working than socializing. As the start time for the event rolled around, I looked around the large hall to see members of the reunion committee along with a handful of others. We were set to handle more than 200 people. I began to wonder if the event might be a bust, but the committee head assured me that at least 150 had solidly committed to attend. Within an hour the place was bustling. Almost every seat was filled, although, some people stood chatting and never sat down.

The chief purpose of the event was to socialize and renew acquaintances. I had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with a few childhood friends, as well as friends made during college days. It is always amazing to see people a decade or two after having last seen them. It is surprising to see how little some have changed and how much others have. There were a couple of people I was able to recognize only after reading their nametags.

It’s like I’ve got a snapshot in my head of what each person should look like based on what they looked like the last time I saw them. It somehow seems like a shock to see that people have aged since that snapshot was taken. Besides, there were videos playing around the hall showing these people dancing back in their college days. So it seemed natural to make now-and-then comparisons.

It was good to catch up a bit with people that we hadn’t seen for a while. Most were just busy with their families and careers. Most seemed to be doing well. One friend that went through a painful divorce a few years ago attended the event with her fiancé, who seems to be a very nice fellow. I hope the best for them. A fair number came without his/her spouse, as some spouses sensed little personal connection to the group.

One feature of the evening was a performance by current members of the folkdance team. Another feature was when attendees were invited to step out onto the dance floor to try their skill at performing some of the dances they did when they were on the team. I watched, but did not dance. I was grateful that my wife was able to partner with a friend of ours whose wife is not a dancer.

When it came time to wrap up, several spouses of dancers joined me in cleaning up while dancers danced and visited with each other. It was still pretty late by the time the members of the committee closed up and left the building.

My wife has been somewhat self conscious in the past couple of years about the amount of gray showing up in her hair. But she has been reluctant to consider hair coloring. Once you start, she says, it’s constant maintenance. Besides, I think she looks great without coloring her hair. On the way home, she hoped that I wouldn’t think her too vain if she opined that her hair looks pretty good compared with some of her contemporaries.

I try to avoid reunions when I can. I am more likely to attend a rare or one-off reunion than an ongoing event. Part of me has moved on. I am busy with the present. My heart and head generally don’t live in that past realm, so why should I repeatedly go there? On the other hand, I have to admit that attending my wife’s folkdance team reunion turned out to be quite a pleasant experience.

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