Friday, August 19, 2016

A tale of two reunions

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

Now I finally know what Dickens meant when he wrote those words.

I recently returned home from a two-reunion trip to Canada. The first reunion was at my high school with people I have not seen for the past 37 years and the second was at my childhood synagogue, a kilometer down the road from my high school. I only mention the distance because, in retrospect, the two reunions might has well have occurred in two different hemispheres for all the similarities between them. In other words, no similarities.

The only reason we went to Canada this summer was because I wanted to go to my high school reunion. Apparently I was the only one. I saw six old friends (from a graduating class of 374) and had word that at least five others were sighted in town. They must have been at other high school reunions because I definitely did not see them at mine.

At one point my husband convinced me to call my high school boyfriend to see if he was coming. It took some serious detective work to get his phone number and when I finally reached him and asked him if was coming to the reunion (he lives at best 12 kilometers from our high school) he offered the most unintentionally profound statement of the week: "What for?"

Another friend, who lives less than 10 kilometers from the high school didn't bother to show up because she had to lose weight.

I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

I travelled half way around the world and they couldn't scoot around for the corner due to futility and weight issues?

Fortunately, the synagogue reunion could not have been more satisfying. A hundred and fifty old faces that were genuinely happy to see me -- and each other. The one exception was my cousin Alan, who apparently is a bigger idiot than I remember. For clarity's sake, he was always an idiot and now he is a much, much, much bigger one!

Everyone in the synagogue wanted to talk, to hear about each other's families, see pictures of each other's kids, take new pictures, and generally catch up on the past 37 years. In other words, all the things a reunion is supposed to be. We reminisced and laughed. It was great. Those people know me in a way that no one -- not even my own family now -- could ever know me. They remember every stupid piece of minutiae from the first 17 years of my life. The time Heidi's father inadvertently drove over her new puppy; the time my mother didn't pick up Sandra when she walked home in the rain and I had to hear about it for years; the time we got caught playing basketball when we should have been participating in Kol Nidre; the time this and the time that!

They also observe a unique form of Judaism that I am confident is not practiced anywhere else in the world. It isn't based on Halacha (Jewish law), but rather on decades and decades of oral, local, Jewish tradition. It makes perfect sense to them and heaven knows it is more genuine than a lot of things I see today.

And yes, there is a simple lesson from all of this:

You can only go home again .... for a visit. You can't stay. It is never the way you have recreated it in your mind. Lots of "old friends" would rather not see you after 37 years if they are carrying a few extra pounds. For others, the past is the past and that is where it should stay. But, for some reason, my original Jewish community, the people who inadvertently played a big role in who I am today, will take you any way you come, whenever you come.