Tomorrow I have the pleasure of a special treasure, my annual Big Chill weekend. Named for the movie when old friends reunite at another's funeral, this 20+ year old tradition brings me together with 4 high school friends and their spouses. Before there was Facebook we were connected. Despite busy schedules and potential conflicts, we always managed to get our annual reunion. Many years we just hung out at someone's house. A few times we went on adventure. That is what this year's will be, a trip to Allentown, PA to go skeet shooting, hiking and dinner. Since it is central between Philadelphia, Harrisburg and NY everyone is traveling comparable distances.
What makes this special is that now that we are fifty somethings we have shared so much over the years. Our lives have progressed fairly similarly. At the first Chill we were the only one's married. Over the years we welcomed 4 new spouses -- all have been enthusiastically embraced and each has learned to accept us. All couples but one have 2 kids, the fifth was brave enough to have a third. Our kids are the oldest and the youngest haven't quite hit double digits. For a bunch of years, these were family affairs, changing diapers, watching kids in the pool, and continuously dealing with food. Later, overnight camp started pulling the kids away. Over the years we tracked the milestones, walking, sports triumphs, bar mitzvahs, learning to drive and college plans. Now we are back to how we started, adults only. We have gone full cycle.
There are a few interactions that make these reunions special. Since we have grown up together we know one another's siblings, parents and other friends. When together there is thorough check-in on the extended families. We want to sincerely know what is happening in everyone's lives. How are the parents holding up? What's new with your brother or their kids? We can pass hours just catching up on everyone's gang. Another classic characteristic of old friends is the undeserved, unsolicited and uninvited abuse that everyone heaps on one another. Long forgotten hairlines, old flames, inappropriate bodily functions, rumored ED, and previous stupid behavior are all fair material. Truly us boys are worse than the girls, but a jab from the distaff is not uncommon. One of the most special aspects of our group is the free exchange of advice. Since we don't actively participate in one another's daily lives, the suggestions represent a more removed and objective perspective. There is universal acceptance that the intention is to help and it is proffered without ego. We share parenting challenges, health concerns, financial worries and marital issues casually as if it was a recap of yesterday's baseball game. Everyone helps and tries to be constructive. As a group, we are also accepting of indiscretions. Months without contact doesn't spawn the finger pointing, "I was the last to call." A missed birthday is chalked up to everyone is very busy. Never has anyone said, "I do all the work to arrange these." Whether it is a HS alumnus or a spouse, we have become an extended family, covering one another's backs. No one is immune from abuse and all are included in the actual and virtual group hug. It works because everyone is committed to making it an annual part of their lives.
I always look forward to Big Chill weekend because I know it will never be a disappointment. Maybe everything doesn't go perfectly, but we really are chill with one another. In our case, old friends are like that favorite, old flannel shirt just very comfortable. I have been given many gifts in life, but this is one of the greatest. Here's to Old Friends.