Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Project Reunion

No, this post is not about some new cable "reality" show about a dramatic, dysfunctional family gathering.

It is actually about a phrase I overheard today.

This morning, riding the train from home in Ohio City to work downtown, I boarded the train behind a couple of nattily-dressed middle-aged African-American gentlemen. As they made their way down the aisle, they came across a few more men of their same age, all equally well-styled.

I watched as hand-shakes and hugs were traded, then made my way past where the group was seated. The ride to the next stop was short, 4 minutes or so, but it was immediately evident that the handful of guys were all happy to see each other, speaking loudly and excitedly and warmly.

One of the men even acknowledged the happiness felt, saying he was really looking forward to seeing them again later in the summer at the annual "project reunion." From the responses, it quickly became clear all these guys grew up in the same housing development and all managed to make it out, to survive the awful problems that can trap good-hearted and well-intentioned folks within the system for years and generations. These guys weren't trapped and, from looks at least, had prospered. Yet they still took the time to reconnect each year, to celebrate their friendship and good fortune and remember their roots.

It was pretty great.

I come from pretty humble roots, too. I didn't grow up in the projects, but I did grow up in a family where the idea of attending college was a wasteful novelty (though I did) and shopping always equated to day-old bread stores and garage sales, clearance sales at department stores when things were flush. Before today, I never really had any sense of regret for losing touch with the guys from my own youth, several of whom also managed to get beyond the situation they were born into, even as most of the dudes I hung out with in elementary and high school are still in the same town, working the shitty jobs their parents did if they are lucky.

I wish we would've kept in touch, but as we all began to experience the first modest moments of personal and professional success, we started to lose touch. Now I wouldn't have a clue how to find them, other than some intrepid "google stalking" or a serendipitous facebook friend request. And when I did find them (or they found me), I wouldn't have any idea what to say.

Maybe some day we'll all be reconnected and be able to share our successes while reminding one another of our own roots in a positive way. I think it would be a beneficial thing, though maybe we all want to put a bit more distance between where we are and where we came from.

I know I do.


-A said...

You've made me want to reconnect with those from my past, too.

Those of us who grew up in the very rural area of my hometown went to a separate elementary school from the city kids. Growing up with different roots really bonds people together. I may very well do some reconnecting of my own in the near future. Thanks!

CB said...

Yeah, you know on a darker/sadder note, I was talking to someone earlier today who just found out one of their closest hometown friend's husband (also a friend) had received a terminal diagnosis and had 2-3 months to live. She hadn't been in touch with the couple for a handful of years now and, I think, was regretting it quite a lot. Another way of reminding one to touch base when one can.