The word, ‘reunion’ suggests a coming back together of that which had been separated, a gathering of what was once joined or familiar but has since scattered to the four winds.
After attending a recent high school reunion and then reading Facebook comments of appreciation and inspiration regarding the event, I was very intrigued that it was in a sense a “return to beginnings.” A “return to beginnings” is a common mythologem in the field of religion studies. Many indigenous cultures reenact a “return to beginnings” in their healing ceremonies, and in New Year festivals bringing closure to the old and birthing the new.
For example, in the sacred tales of the Finnish people (my heritage) when one of the major characters cuts his knee with a poorly swung axe, to initiate the proper healing process, the myth of the birth of iron, out of which the axe was made, had to be recounted in order to retrace and honor its creation and power. All traditions have numerous origin or creation stories. In our own culture at Christmas, we “return to beginnings” by retelling the birth narrative of Jesus and reenact the nativity with scenes of figures and animals gathered ‘round a manger with mother and child. We pray this time of the year can bring healing and peace to humanity and we engage this ritual repetition every year.
I think high school reunions can be read as a kind of “return to beginnings,” a return to and a recounting of the creation of a particular class at a time when they struggled through adolescence toward graduation, then into emerging adulthood with its departures from the known world of friendships, school environment, and community. It was time for many of us to embark upon new adventures in distant places with unfamiliar customs and responsibilities.
My high school class has come together in five or ten year increments. Our gathering is a return to the once familiar, recalling a time when we were in the bloom of youth, innocence, vitality, carrying a great sense of - we can do anything! We gather now to reminisce, tell anecdotes, reacquaint, engage, flatter, enjoy what once was, yet is no more, and we fondly imagine what might have been. This can all be an occasion for renewal.
We also remember those in our class who were unfortunate and left us early. We now deeply recognize that there is so much more road behind than ahead and we gather to share our situations, our wounds, our successes, commiserating and celebrating this one precious life.
I have always been somewhat reclusive and introspective, preferring quiet solitude. I find large crowds, loud music, and activity rather uncomfortable, yet it is joyful to gather, even as I sit in the margins, and I greatly appreciate our convening despite the many different paths we have all wandered over the years. I’m continually surprised at the warmth and affection I feel for people who have not been part of my adult life but have lived mostly in imagination. This is sheer blessing.
So I will continue to look forward to these celebratory efforts at connection, healing and renewal, and hope that all will be here to gather once again the next time.
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