Meeting someone again for the first time

By Josh Beavers

I graduated high school close to 30 years ago. In that time, I’ve never been to a class reunion or a homecoming. I don’t know why. Just kinda left that world and never thought much about going back.

So, I really don’t have much experience with homecomings. Meeting people for the first time again. What I mean by that is when we go years between seeing someone, talking to them, those people become strangers to us once more.

Even if you were the closest of friends for years, let a decade go by and that bond will wither and likely die. There’s nothing to keep it alive.

I guess that’s why people like reunions. Homecomings. Class gatherings after so many years apart. I saw that this past Friday when I went to a local high school’s homecoming. It wasn’t my school. I was there for the football game and to take pictures for social media.

Before the game, the classes of 1962, 72, 82, 92, 02, and 12 were honored. The further back you went, the fewer returnees there were. Taken by time, or distance, or loss of interest.

Because that’s what life is. A series of gains and then losses. Of highs and then the inevitable lows. Of either going into a crisis, currently enduring one, or living that sweet life where you’re in the blissful bit after coming out of one.

The reunion gives you a glimpse into a good part of your life. Makes you feel warm from the fuzzy memories it kindles. Why would people go if they didn’t get that good feeling?

And while this wasn’t my homecoming, and I’ve not been to my own since graduating back in 97, I still had that happy feeling when I met someone again for the first time.

Out of the crowd came bounding a red-headed memory. It was an old friend and colleague who had gone on to brighter lights and bigger things. She was at the game to cheer on her niece.

When I saw her, so many memories flooded back of long-ago battles in the reporter bullpen, of court cases, of an alcohol referendum and the bitterness it brought out, of lawsuits between political bodies, of especially dirty elections and dirtier politicians who we ended up help put behind bars, of five-alarm fires, of explosions, and interviews with CNN which ended with the quote “it was a big boom.”

And as she told me what the past 10 years had brought to her life, all I could think of was one of my favorite words.

The word “sonder” means having a “Profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passing in the street, has a life as complex as one’s own, which they are constantly living despite one’s personal lack of awareness of it.”

Tim McGraw also summed it up in “Where the Green Grass Grows.”

Six lanes, tail lights
Red ants marching into the night
They disappear to the left and right again

Everyone on the field had their own unique lives with hopes and dreams and fears and accomplishments and failures and strengths and weaknesses. They are just as strong and powerful and varied as yours.

From 10 to 50 years apart, the ones gathered for homecoming joined to share in that human bond, the need and desire for belonging and calling others your own.

It wasn’t mine, but it gave me the chance to meet someone again for the first time. I sorta understand now why people go to class and family reunions.

It felt good to meet again. It was a lesson learned and a small bit of growth given to me by God.

I may even mosey on up to Haynesville in the Fall of 2027 when my 30th-anniversary class reunion rolls around.

Wow.

30 years.

Don’t they go by in a blink?

Josh Beavers is a teacher and a writer. He has been honored five times for excellence in opinion writing by the Louisiana Press Association.