I told you about my church youth group from when I was a teenager and how much fun we had. We went on choir trips, mission trips, held services at the hospital, helped old people clean up their yards, packed one ton of candy into stockings for poor children at Christmas, played practical jokes on each other, went to camp, sang concerts, produced puppet shows, and some things I can’t divulge because the statute of limitations has probably not run out yet. We were comrades in arms. Soldiers in the foxhole. Partners in crime. Not to mention all the times So-and-So got a crush on You-Know-Who, and we kidded and ribbed and let the cat out of the bag. When two of us actually hooked up, we stuck our fingers down our throats and made vomiting noises and said how gross it was. We were sick with jealousy. We went to Jungle Survival School together, but that’s another story.
A few weeks ago, many of the group got together for a reunion in Dothan, Alabama, since the Panama Canal Zone doesn’t exist anymore and most of us live up here. I looked forward to it eagerly but also with curiosity. After all, it had been almost 40 years since we had seen each other. You know how that goes. Life encroaches, and the years and the miles and the weather and the job and the marriages and the two-point-five children and the extra piece of pecan pie add up. As Rick drove me up to the reunion, I wondered, Will they know me? Will I know them? Will we have anything to talk about?
The minute we saw each other in the hotel lobby, it was as if time and space and distance didn’t exist. It was as though we had seen each other just the day or week before. It was surreal, getting together with so many kids who had meant so much to me in my childhood, almost an out-of-body experience. The connection was profound. When we hugged each other, it was not words that rushed out—it was tears. We were bubbling with laughter, to be sure, but I was knocked out by how emotional it was. We spent the evening singing old choir and camp songs, sharing memories, and honoring our choir director and his wife, both now 90 years old. It was magic. Get this: the reunion was actually planned and carried out by a girl who had been much younger than us. It had always been her dream to be a part of the group when she watched us as a kid. Now as an adult in her forties, her dream was to see all of us together again. What she did was give us a gift. For one night, I stepped into a time machine and got to recapture the spirit, the unity, the camaraderie, and the ambiance that had once been ours.
We really existed. We really were. We really lived.