At the end of 4th grade, my class found itself in uncharted territory. For the first time in 5 years, when we came back for school in the fall, we’d be in a new building, a whole mile or so away. We’d be the youngest, after having risen to the top. We’d have more than 1 teacher. We’d have lockers. A whole new world. Before we left, we signed each other’s autograph books and wished each other a good summer. The pending school year seemed so far away. Our teacher, whom we had grown close to, asked that we keep in touch. Back then, this meant hand-written letters that went into the mailbox (you know, those big blue boxes on the street corner?). I was one of only a few who actually wrote her, and continued until about 6th grade.
That’s who I am. I keep in touch. I bring people together. I am the Reunion friend.
Since probably 6th grade, or maybe sooner, I’ve been bringing people together. I’d throw Halloween parties on my front lawn or graduation parties in the public park. I coordinated reunions for my sleep away camp friends when all we had was AOL and land lines to bring together people from the tristate area. When friends moved away, I kept in touch. When I got older, I’d plan vacations and business trips where I could see my friends.
I always found a way. And somewhere along the way, I got the reputation for being the Reunion friend. People expected it from me. Friends expected me to make the plans, to set the time and place. They’d show up, but I usually did the coordinating. I’ve been told I’m hard to surprise for this reason. How can you surprise someone who is already planning the next get together?
I always found a way. Even when people seemed too busy, or in a bad place. I found a way to break through. Even when my son was born prematurely, I pulled myself together 3 weeks later to have my baby shower. Because people were coming together because of me. I already planned it.
I’m usually the first to reach out. To check in. To send a funny meme or simply just a “thinking of you.” Every so often, a friend reaches out first. Those are my favorite moments. The moments when a friend says, hey, what are you doing on this date?
Because the truth is, it’s not easy always being the planner, being the first to reach out, to always be the one putting in that extra effort to keep my relationships meaningful. It’s hard to always be the one offering a shoulder to cry on, when sometimes, I need to be the one crying. Sometimes I guess my desire to be a good friend overshadows my need to vent, to cry, to be held. Sometimes I just think that maybe people just don’t care. Maybe that’s true in some instances. Maybe it’s not in others. I try to be understanding and put myself in other people’s shoes but it’s hard when it doesn’t seem like I’m getting anything back. It makes me just want to give up.
And sometimes I do. But I’ll never stop being the reunion friend.