Friday, March 21, 2014

See what's become of me

In a couple of months, it will have been 18 years since I graduated from college. Tonight, I'm getting together with a bunch of college friends for dinner, because one member of our campus cohort who moved to Massachusetts and then California and most recently Indiana is back in Virginia for a visit this weekend. One thing that certainly helps the group to stay relatively cohesive and gather on short notice is that the rest of us have put down roots in various relatively nearby D.C. suburbs. Another is that what strikes me as a disproportionate number of us married fellow alums, and reinforced the common bonds rather than drifting off into other orbits. But I know that this is a pretty rare thing, for people who all met a couple decades ago to stay in contact and socialize like it's no big deal. And I am pretty grateful for it.

These are the people who knew me when I was still a pretty raw work in progress, who were instrumental in me picking up a cigarette habit, who dutifully made sure I got home when I got kicked out of bars (after a stumbling sidetrip to Denny's or Dunkin' Donuts, usually), and who drove me to the ER when my exuberance led to injury. I would have done the same for them, of course, and I suppose in some ways I did; make what you will of the fact that when I was the one causing trouble, the memories were burned into my brain, whereas when I was part of the indulgent clean-up crew for someone else, I tended to move on from it unencumbered. I suppose a fair number of people might be tempted to put those youthful indiscretions far behind them and not hold onto to people who remind them of those days, but I am not among that number. As I've already alluded to, it's not as though I need to shield my wife from these crazy stories about the wild times before I met her, because they started after I met her and she was there for them, too.

Is it my memories gathering dust, or is it just me?.

Still, of course people do change, and it is kind of funny to try to reconcile the past and the present. There's something like six or seven couples meeting up at the restaurant tonight, and one of those couples just announced that they are expecting their first child in September; the rest of us all have had, and are bringing, children of our own. So we've gone from irresponsible kids ourselves to (nominally) responsible parents. We used to meet up at 10 p.m. on Tuesday nights to start an evening of carousing and carrying on; tonight our dinner reservation is at 5:45, and I can't imagine my wife and I keeping our brood there for much more than two hours for fear or risking too much disruption to the bedtime routines. And that doesn't really make us outliers, as the whole rest of the gang has basically the same concerns and considerations to deal with. It's all extremely normal and age-appropriate now, just like all the stupid stories from when we were 21 were relatively normal and age-appropriate then. But I can't help but feel a touch of astonishment that it's all the same people on both sides of that divide, that those different lifestyles are all part of the same continuous lifespans, with a lengthy (and ever-lengthening) stretch of years in between.

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