Nothing changes, and yet nothing stays the same.
On the first day of my trip to Boston for my 10th college reunion, I have lunch with Elisa, who I haven’t seen or really talked to in three and a half years, since her son was a newborn and Sandy and I were just dating. Now she’s a mother of two, and we’re having lunch in a mall in Braintree, talking about things that happened eleven, twelve, thirteen years ago. At one point we both try in vain to flesh out a vague memory that at some point after graduation, sometime in the last ten years, we got muffins at Dunkin Donuts and hung out in a park and talked about boyfriends. But with great ease, we’re also talking about now, about planning a wedding and navigating a newish job and about taking care of two boys and easing back into part-time work.
Amanda picks me up at the train station with her almost-three-year-old son Jonah in tow. On our way to the farm to pick up veggies for dinner, he discusses the finer points of bluegrass musicianship with her. “Mama, is that Peter Rowan playing the mandolin?” “No sweetie, I think it’s Tony Rice.” “No Mama. It sounds like Peter Rowan. Can we listen to the song again to be sure?” This conversation sounds crazily like one that she could have had with her ex-boyfriend ten years ago, but way, way cuter.
Asya and I meet at Au Bon Pain to walk over to the reunion together, past our freshman dorms. The reunion itself is wet and muddy and cold, an accident of weather that makes me horribly fearful for our wedding. At our fifth reunion, people had changed in some superficial ways (the women lost weight, the men gained it), but at our tenth, everyone has become a parent, or has grown up in some meaningful way.
On Sunday, Eben picks me up for brunch and explains to me again what the hell it is that he does. He’s been explaining it for ten years. It changes often, but only slightly, just enough that I never know from one year to the next if he’s a computer scientist or an economist. I do know that he wins some type of prize for having delivered an impassioned let’s just be friends speech to me over thirteen years ago that totally, in fact, caused us to be great friends.
In a strange way, going to my college reunion made me really excited for our marriage. The ease of these relationships, friendships that shift and bend with the passage of years, reminds me that we have the rest of our lives to have all the conversations we want to have. And while we will change in ways both superficial and profound, we will constantly be able to circle back around our shared memories as we build our life together.