This past Tuesday, for the first time in 42 years, I sat down with my college roommate. There is an absurdity inherent in the first greeting, the inevitable “How have you been?” But there is far more: a long hug, apologies for all that happened when we were young, impulsive and generally dopey, lapfuls of laughter, and the recognition that the best way to start the conversation was at the beginning of what had been for us, all those years ago, the end.
For hours we talked, in a tight little corner of a tiny cafe filled with flavor and hospitality in Litchfield, Connecticut, a leafy place where New Yorkers escape New York and where many residents reside in renewed Revolutionary-War-era houses. After we told the proprietors we were college roommates who hadn’t seen one another for decades, they chirped their enthusiasm for our efforts and generously left us to our chatter. Once the time came for us to part, and stiff from a lack of leg movement, we stumbled out into the rain, exhilarated.
A few days later, my husband and I attended his unofficial college reunion, at a home in the Berkshire hills in western Massachusetts, part of the Appalachian Mountain Range. My husband is a friendly human. But Covid has kept him fully away from those who breathe. He remained wary. A party with 120 people milling about was not his idea of a good idea.
Yet in those hours on a hilltop, he reached out to the people with whom he had once spent his formative waking hours. I believe, from observation, although I haven’t had this conversation with him, that he warmed to the philosophy that being around people we like is good for us. Great, really.
The pandemic gave us plenty of alone time. It allowed us to slow down, to edit out the less pressing aspects of our lives, to read and contemplate. To write and think. To garden, to walk peacefully and without a destination in mind. But there is a side to human nature, the ‘qualified self,’ scientists call it, that needs the support of other humans. One study found that the strength of a person’s social network was a better predictor of stress, joy, and general well-being than any FitBit or tracker that measures activity, sleep, and heart rate, what is known as the quantified self.
And it couldn’t begin to measure the adrenaline shot of joy that erupted when I threw my arms around my old roommate and hugged those lost years away. I see now, in these precious moments, that there is redemption in reunion. Dr. Seuss once said, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” But I knew, I did, in those hours, how much they meant to me. Perhaps the pandemic did that. Maybe wisdom. Or possibly, the onset of older age.
Whatever it was, I knew it to be a gift.
Write about your re-entry into the flow of daily life if you are indeed indulging in such a re-entry. Sit with your thoughts a while. Then share them. Send them to me if you wish. I’d like to read them.