Years ago I worked with a guy who had a young son. My workmate discovered the little guy, who was usually quite active, in solemn contemplation. Concerned that his son was anxious about something, he gently asked, “Hey buddy whatcha thinkin’ about?” His five year-old’s response: “Cheese.” He was just blissfully enjoying the moment. Not worried tomorrow. Or what had or hadn’t happened the day before. Just cheese.
Sometimes I long for those “cheese” moments in my life. Times when I am truly present. When I can turn off the worries and the anticipations of tomorrow and let go of the recriminations and regrets of the past. I’ve tried centering prayer and meditation but I usually fill the silence with silly pop songs in my head or I struggle to remember if I’ve paid a bill that was due or what my third grade teacher’s name was. I’m a “what’s next? – let’s move on” kind of guy. It’s a struggle for me to S L O W D O W N and smell the roses.
This weekend was my 45th high school class reunion and I felt blessed to be very much in the moment. Of course we reminisced about school days long ago but mostly I met my old friends where they are today. Some married high school sweethearts. Many of us are grandparents now. Some have had amazing careers. Some have found great fortune. Some have had more than their share of heartache. But for a brief shining moment we were the NEW AND IMPROVED class of 1973 in 2018. An updated version – free of adolescent angst. We weren’t the jocks or geeks or cheerleaders or rebels anymore. We were just old friends sharing a moment in time. The wrinkles and gray hair and extra pounds seemed to magically disappear as we embraced one another. We shared laughter and rekindled friendships. The familiar faces and warm conversations made me feel as though I had just graduated and turned right around and walked back through the door.
I know that it was just one moment in time. I know that we will all rush back to our busy lives for better or for worse. But I left the evening feeling extremely grateful. Thankful for my friends. Thankful for my memories.
And so I’m sitting at my desk today smiling to myself and thinking about high school (and a little boy who once loved cheese) and I’m living in the moment.
Saturday was my high school class reunion. I have to admit that I approached this reunion with some amount of trepidation. I’m not sure why. I’m not the only one who is now 40 years older than when we graduated. We’ve all had our share of life’s joys and sorrows; triumphs and setbacks. But High School leaves this indelible mark on your psyche: jock or geek; brainiac or goof-off; good girl or bad boy. Some of us spend the rest of our lives trying to live-down our high school hijinks and some of us spend the rest our lives trying to relive our glory days (sad to think that some might have actually peaked in high school).
I suppose secretly I was hoping that maybe the captain of the basketball team would be fat and bald and that the homecoming queen would be a hot mess. Turns out that they are still attractive and even more importantly they are nice people. Guys that were jerks in high school seem to have mellowed with age. Girls that were unattainable then are somebody’s grandmother today and still beautiful. Some former classmates have incredible families. Some have had amazing careers. Some have accomplished great things. Some have enjoyed simple pleasures and good lives. It appears that time is the great equalizer.
I was the geeky kid that always forced my way into situations where I didn’t belong (probably still do). My best friend was a popular jock in high school and NEVER stopped being my friend although I probably made it difficult for him at times when I was in full nerd mode (we’re still friends today). The smart kids were my friends in school too, even though I barely managed a C average (maybe they took pity on me). I suppose that I never knew my place. Still don’t.
But the place I’ve found, with my lovely wife, has been the perfect place for me. We’ve built a life together that is full of love, joy and laughter. We’ve celebrated our successes, shouldered our burdens together and been partners through it all.
My class reunion was a lot of fun. I reconnected with people I hadn’t seen in years. We shared a lot of good memories and plenty of laughs. I realized last Saturday that reunions are a reminder that life is precious and time marches on.
Once upon a time a group of individuals shared a special time and place: High School. It was unique to us. For some it might have been angst-ridden; for others it might have been delightful; and for still others it might have been a bore. But it was ours.
When I tell people that my mom is the 12th of 13 children I usually get one of two responses. The first one (and most likely) is: Wow! Are you serious? The second response, which never ceases to amaze me, is often something along the lines of “my mom (or dad) was one of 14 (or 15 etc.)” or “I knew somebody that came from a family of fifteen (or twenty)”. You get the idea. Maybe it’s true but it always seems a little doubtful. I think some people like to ‘one-up’. I just smile and say, “Oh, that is a big family”. What I want to say is, “Well okay then you win” “Just for the record, it was never a contest!” “And besides, even if your family is bigger it’s not better than ours!”
Mom is now 82 and is one of the ‘little girls’ – her younger sister is 81. All six of her brothers have passed away and three of her sisters are gone now, too. She and my dad are the only couple left in her generation. Her surviving sisters are: two widows and a nun. She also has two widowed sisters-in-law. Being one of the youngest in a large family has many blessings but watching your siblings die one by one is extremely difficult. We have spent the last few years attending a succession of funerals. With each loss Mom confronts her own mortality again.
Yesterday was a happy family gathering: a reunion. The Moellering Family hadn’t had a reunion in 10 years (not counting aforementioned funerals) and Mom couldn’t have been happier. Seeing Mom with her sisters and nieces and nephews made me realize how much of a Moellering that I am, too. I love our family! I’m proud to be part of this clan. We of the 13 brothers and sisters! We of the produce farmer granddad! We of the three aunts that were nuns! We, this big messy Catholic family that sometimes drinks too much, cusses and fights but always forgives and loves one another deeply. We, this fiercely proud group of hardworking, hard-headed, half-French, half-German, Midwesterners.
We are family!
Families. It’s God way of ALWAYS reminding us who we are. We will touch the future through our children and grandchildren. We continue to honor the past with our memories of those that loved us into being. We possess a unique bond with our siblings and our cousins that no one else can share. We are family. We are loved. We are Moellering!