It seems to me that of all the peculiar activities or customs we humans indulge in is that of reunions. According to the dictionary definition a reunion is “a gathering of relatives, friends, or associates at regular intervals or after separation” and I suppose that’s both a simple and accurate description. The question that comes to mind, however, is why we have reunions at all - what purpose do they serve? Perhaps a look at who has reunions might give a clue.
Although there may well be many others I can think of three groups of people who appear most likely to have reunions: the military, families, and those who have attended a school. All three tend to be close-knit and to have shared common experiences or relationships that are unique to that particular collection of individuals. OK, that said, let’s take a closer look at some examples.
The military provides a distinct situation in our society because the individuals serving together likely come from a variety of backgrounds and geographical locations. What they have in common are their military experiences — which may form a basis for a continuing relationship long after their military service has ended. My sister’s husband, for example, served overseas during WWII and was “demobilized”after the war. He and his wartime buddies forged such strong close bonds they held annual reunions as long as they were physically able.
There are a couple of difficulties with military reunions.; First, the composition of a particular unit often changes, that is, the members move on to another unit or to civilian life so keeping track of individuals is a challenge. Second, the units themselves often are disbanded or “stood down” in military language. A number of my old outfits exist today only in the memory of those who served in them - which makes reunions difficult but not impossible.
My last military assignment, which ended over 40 years ago, was with a unit that no longer exists because its unique mission was eliminated as was that of a sister outfit with a somewhat similar but also unique mission. Those who served in these two outfits - a very exclusive group - decided to continue their association and have held reunions for a number of years. So it can be done. OK, moving on.
Family reunions are a mixed lot. Some are humongous affairs involving hundreds of relatives but most are likely much smaller. We have been having what we call an annual “family picnic” for over 60 years — it’s just the descendants of my parents but their six sons and two daughters have managed to produce a respectable number of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It’s a low-key affair but gives us a chance to kinda catch up on how everyone’s doing, eat BBQ pork ribs and chicken ( standard fare for over 40 years) with some of the guys playing penny ante poker while the ladies ooh and ah over the latest babies. I was one of the primary organizers/host for many years, but nowadays I can simply sit back and enjoy the festivities.
Yep, I am the patriarch of this family - the eldest of the lot.
School reunions often but not always commemorate some event such a graduation. A notable exception hereabouts are the former residents of the Ohio Veterans Children’s Home (OVCH) or its predecessor the OSSO home. I am told that, regardless of when they were there, they periodically return to the campus for a get together to celebrate their proud heritage.
My high school class will shortly hold a reunion in celebration of the 65th anniversary of our graduation. Yep, it’s been 65 years since we got our high school diplomas while listening to the school orchestra valiantly struggling to play “Pomp and Circumstance” without its senior class members.
Sounds kinda neat, but there’s the catch to this situation. I am part of the group planning the reunion and will, once again, be the master of ceremonies for the main activity. Why? It’s likely because I’m the youngest surviving member of my class. Yep, I started elementary school when I was five and so I’m the “baby” of my high school class. From patriarch to baby without missing a beat.
So why do we have reunions? Well, they give us a chance to reconnect with family and friends and to recall those earlier days - which naturally grow more rosy as time slips by. We tend to remember the good things, the fun things, and to share them with, “Do you remember … ?” But then there’s nagging problem of wondering whatever happened to those vibrant, fresh folks of bygone years - and who all these old people are. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.