Thirty years ago in June of 1982, I took my last long walk through the hallowed halls of the junior high school building at St. Ambrose Elementary school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A lot has happened in my life since those days so long ago. I graduated from high school, completed a few college classes, loved a few great men who all broke my heart, moved to Motown, got married, birthed and buried a daughter and brought two more amazing and loving sons into the world.
In all that time, and in all of life's experiences, I forgot about my days "way back when". I moved on. Some people I stayed in touch with and others became a distant memory. Trips home were only once a year and time was constantly squeezed tight running from place to place to visit all the people whom I wanted to see. Along the way, friends were missed and some feelings were hurt. And every time I headed back to my house in Michigan, thousands of tears were shed. A lot has changed about that during this last year.... all for the better.
With the advent of Facebook, one by one our class came back together. It started with our 25th high school reunion in November, 2011, when people from our parish started talking about getting together for our own class reunion. People reuniting online and in person, our old circle that was in the past scattered, began to re-form itself. Friendships that were thought to be lost were found again. We shared the good memories and even the bad ones. We talked about the teachers we loved and the teachers we thought should rot in hell. And we even we lucky enough to move one instructor from "teacher" status to that of a good friend. Life as we know it, in my humble little opinion, got MUCH better.
Keeping in touch through electronic media has been wonderful therapy for me. It lets me into the lives of people who I once couldn't go a day or week without seeing. I learned about their lives and their children. Learned who lost family members and who gained new members through marriage, birth or adoption. I learned of their triumphs and their tragedies. I laughed with them and shed tears with them, even from 600 miles away. Little by little, the emails, posts and comments turned into hours long "chat sessions" or, even better, long phone conversations. The final result lost friendships were being re-imprinted on my heart.
I learned that as much as things change throughout life, way too many things stay the same. Or at least the people do. As I reconnected with each member of our class online, I realized just how charmed a life I lived. Something that living so far from home, hating the state I live in, I had forgotten.
Last night, a lot of the people who saw me as the shy, introverted "good girl" saw a whole new side of me. A side of myself that, in the past, I was never comfortable sharing. And I realized why - I never realized how integral a part of my life they were at the time. I am now comfortable in my skin with this crowd. I know I'm safe in their company. I can be me, not a shell of myself. They're home to me. They represent a huge part of my life that when thought of only makes me smile.
When I left The Kitchen Bar in Abington last night a simple little country tune came on the radio. And the uncontrollable sobbing began... "Find Out Who Your Friends Are" by Tracy Lawrence. And then, back at my hotel, I started reading the Facebook posts and the sobbing got worse. Tears of happiness for having these fine people in my life and tears of sorrow knowing that I won't see many of them in person for at least the next year. The tears flowed off and on all day long. Then the pictures started getting posted online and they started all over again. Every photo has a special place in my memory. The smiles remind me of what a great group of loving people came out of that school, no matter what we faced each and every day. We have a deep, genuine, unbreakable bond that no one else can possibly understand. I thank God every single day for each and every one of them.
Some of these people may not know it, but they've talked me off the proverbial ledge quite a few times and they have each earned a special spot in my heart. Some helped me out when I was lost, without hesitation, without thinking of themselves or what they'd get out of the deal. Some offered advice and some just an ear to listen. Without some of them, I may not even be here to write this post tonight. They are truly what made me the person I am today, and for that I will be eternally grateful!
Love you all so much and glad to have you back in my life. I promise this time, I won't let go - at least not without a fight! In the words of Rodney Atkins, "THESE ARE MY PEOPLE! This is where I come from. We're giving this life everthing we got and then some. It ain't always pretty, but it's real! It's the way we were made. Wouldn't have it any other way. These are MY people!"