It's the last thing I saw as we left: one of the "cool" girls in an animated conversation with one of the "good" girls. They probably didn't exchange two sentences in high school and yet here they were, big smiles, hands waving, talking. Sharing an experience. It's what life is.
These two 58 year old women were celebrating their 40th high school reunion in a suburb of Detroit. It was a full weekend affair, a "grasser" on Friday night, the dinner and dance on Saturday night, and a breakfast on Sunday. Three hundred or so people from around the country and from three separate high school classes, 1966, 1967 and 1968, all together. Again.
Since you're reading this on the CNBC web site I guess I should provide some "reliable", "actionable", financial hook to this thing. Simple. One of the women I talked to on Saturday night was attending her second 40th high school reunion this year (she had attended two different schools). It dawned on me then that this will be going on for decades thanks to all us baby boomers. Everybody has reunions, but frankly, the older you get, the more meaningful they become.
The 10th was nothing like the 20th and the 20th was a mere appetizer compared to this one. Which means the catering, party planning, exhibition space "sector" will be booming. Not to mention photographers. If you're thinking about getting into any of those businesses, or investing in one, now is the time. This reunion thing won't be finished for another, well, 40 years.
But candidly, I didn't think much about that fiscal angle while I was flying away from Detroit. What I was thinking about was how much it really meant--a lot. Life is a series of shared experiences. Your best friends are the ones you likely share the most with, good and bad.
The people in your life you lost touch with are the ones you haven't shared anything with in a while. What makes something like a 40th reunion so special is that for one night all those people are sharing experiences again within the same frame work. The frame work of those four or two or even one year you all spent together inside the same walls. Sort of like prison--just kidding.
But even if high school was a lousy experience for you, and it can be, you undoubtedly shared it with someone. Even without knowing it. An attractive woman came up to me and said, "I'm so and so, you probably don't remember me, I was pretty much a wall flower." "That's okay," I said, "We're seeing each other now." And we spent the next ten or 15 minutes talking about experiences and people we both knew and about how special it was to be back.
She walked away. As I sit here I can't for the life of me remember her name, but that's okay. At the 50th reunion, for the same ten or 15 minutes, we'll share another conversation, share the same warm feeling, and smile. Of course there are the folks you were really close to, the Harry's, the Bill's, the Gloria's. Actually Gloria was another Bill's sister, we just wanted to get close to her.
And then there was the football team. We took the obligatory picture, those of us who made it, we talked about things we did back then, even plays in particular games we made or didn't make. We were very, very good by the way.
But that wasn't what it was all about. All of us have gone on to do other things, none of us were "living in the past". I'd venture to say we're all successful, but there was something wonderful about that time 40 years ago, something that had us hugging and laughing just like we did back then. What was it? Shared experience.
I've never been one for looking too far backwards. Life is too short not to keep moving ahead, keep looking over the horizon, for the next adventure, the next good story. But I like this reunion thing. For 8 or 9 hours you're able to examine your life in the frame work of who were then, who you've become, and do it surrounded by people who are doing the same thing. Yes, some are fat, some are bald, but by and large the jerks have mellowed, the geeks have matured, and the "cool" girls have learned they have a lot in common with the "good" girls.
And they're talking and laughing and sharing. That's life. Hey you guys from '67, I love you all.
'Mike On America' is the NYC early this week, then down the farm in Pa, and off to Florida. See you along the road.
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