Monday, August 05, 2013

Our Town

Last week I went to a funeral and a mini high school reunion, the latter of which would not have happened without the former.

The father of two brothers - both friends of mine from Delhi days - had passed away, and they came to DC for the funeral. One called me to give me the news, which I passed on to another dear friend, and those few of us in town jumped quickly to offer support.

We were so very sad about the circumstances, but delighted to be together. I remember this juxtaposition of grief and joy from my dad's memorial service.

I hadn't seen either brother - the older of whom took me to my junior prom, and hand-to-God was back then the most beautiful man I had ever seen up close in my life - since 1986. Which, if you don't feel like doing the math, is 27 years.

And yet, as I am reminded every time there is a Delhi gathering, it doesn't matter how long it's been. We will hug a genuine, warm embrace. We will catch others up on intervening years, introduce spouses, show pictures of children.

And then the reminiscing begins.

It was funny, you know, because next week Nick and I are going to New Hampshire, and ever since we'd booked tickets, I'd been thinking I should get in touch with my dear high school friend Paul, who played the stage manager in our high school's rendition of Our Town by Thornton Wilder.

Here's my friend Paul. We're more grown up than I ever imagined possible way back in 1985.
Our Town remains, to this day, one of my favorite plays, and my only knowledge of New Hampshire.

So I thought about Paul, and the other friends in the play, and the hours and days and weeks we all spent working on our lines and what an extraordinary thing it was to be involved in, during what would turn out to be, except for marriage and babies, the best, most extraordinary time of my life.

It was the era of the Breakfast Club, but we were all jocks and nerds and queens and thespians and musicians. Some of us were even criminals to some degree.

None of us were unpopular. None of us were marginalized.

I thought about how it had been too long, and how we don't live that far apart, and how I should reach out and see how his life was going.

And then my life got in the way, as it does.

Then suddenly there we were, all crying and hugging at the funeral. And later, all drinking Taj Mahal beer and eating Indian food and laughing over antics from 30 years prior.

Here are two Pauls. Doing Zoolander. I know I look like a creepy intruder. But I wasn't. I promise. And the other guy in the photo is very private, so you only have a peek at his shoulder.
Here, here's how it mostly is when we get together. You laugh and laugh till you cry.

In a side conversation, I overheard Paul (in the stripes) telling his lovely girlfriend how hard our crowd can be for significant others. Not because we want to exclude anyone. But because we are all so focused on each other.

It is something I have never experienced in another group of people. It's a bit like being in love in the initial stages. Everyone is beautiful, brilliant, hilarious, and fascinating.

You can hear that story of that one thing that happened in 11th grade over and over and over, and still it is the funniest/most daring/craziest thing you have ever heard. And you want to hear it again. You request it.

(You could see how spouses might tire of two solid days of this.)

In this crowd, you are your very best self, not because you are trying to be, but because everyone sees you for who you are, and they love you for the you-ness of you. It makes you feel wonderful.

Beyond that, you do not have to explain anything. You pull words and phrases out that have sat unused for years: sports conventions, ACSA, proms, Pepperling, Janpath, camel treks, Malcha Marg, the Gunghroo, movies at the embassy, Claridge's, the Marine house. They all mean something to this group that they do not mean to anyone else.

It fills up my heart to spend time with these old friends. It's like I finally figured out after the last reunion: these people are home. It's a hard thing to come down from.

And every once in a while you get a terrible reminder of the transitory nature of life. An underlining of the fact that people you love are all there is.

I need to make sure I carve time out for more of them.

The morning star always gets wonderful bright the minute before it has to go, doesn't it?


  1. I try to explain to Jason the beauty that was life with Malcha Marg and the Gunghroo and Janpath and ACSA and Kingfisher beer. But only those of us who were there really understand how magical it was. I want another reunion!! xoxo

    1. I know - magical! We are thinking March or April for a DC weekend. I will keep you posted.

  2. I thought I was the most beautiful man back then. Lol.

    1. Ah, Paul. You were beautiful, and you still are.

  3. Lisa, I wish you would write a book. I would read it over and over for every funny, sad, warm, mad, loving, honest thing you write. This was sweet. I love how you love the people in your life.

    1. Lynn, my sweet friend, I am going to. I am starting this fall. There! I said it! You will be in the credits if it ever gets published.

  4. It's funny - that comment about how the AES group can be hard on significant others. My experience was the complete opposite. I found everyone in the group to be open and accepting of new people and I really enjoyed the day we spent at your house during the 2010 reunion. My theory is that is has to do with all the moving around a lot of you did when you were young. We had a great day with Kelli in Chicago and I'm looking forward to our next trip to DC.


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