It was a mini-reunion with some college friends. We went to a cabin on a lake near our school, just ten guys carrying sleeping bags, a bunch of meat and beer, and a ton of memories. There was a sign hanging in the cabin that said, “What happens at the lake stays at the lake.” And that will mostly be true, mainly because it was so precious and personal to the people in attendance, but also because for the ten friends that went, it was a truly special weekend.
I hadn’t seen some of those guys in a dozen years. Everyone was a little fatter, a little grayer, or a little balder. Some of us were all of the above. We were older, no question about it. We sat in rocking chairs on the porch that first night and drank honey mead and reminisced. It was going to be a wild night of no responsibility and intoxication and foolishness, but instead, for the early arrivals, it was a quiet night of reflection and a lot of genuine laughter. We sat by the fire until way past midnight and drank very little and caught up on everything that had happened since we last saw each other.
First thing Saturday morning, The Loon was up making coffee, eggs, and bacon. Then he went for a bike ride and a swim in the lake while Stick and Sugar Bear and I rolled out of bed late. Firebug was out in the yard again, cranking up yet another fire, even as the sun sent glittering sparkles across the surface of the lake. The musical instruments came out, Stick played guitar while Firebug cycled through the banjo, the ukulele and guitar. They picked out “Dueling Banjos” while we laughed and soaked in the September sunshine.
Then the other five showed up and the vibe completely changed. It got a lot more rowdy, a lot more rambunctious and crazy. More like college as I remember it. Beaver and The Nutt rode in with Honey Badger, who grilled chicken and threw a whole pork butt on to char while the beers were popped and cheers went all around. The Professor and Wang showed up, looking like lithe, fit twins. We sat in chairs on the dock and the camp really started to rock. We talked about our families, mostly, since everyone was married with kids. We talked about girls a lot, the ones we knew and the ones we wished we did, as well as the ones that got away.
The sky grew dark and the good times were in full swing. The Professor lectured us all on the nation’s political state. Honey Badger got real drunk, real fast, and provided the majority of the evening’s entertainment. He was belligerent and surly and bleary-eyed. Wang remarked that he couldn’t believe Badger was still employed. Beaver noted that he couldn’t believe Badger was still married. Badger asked every hour on the hour if anyone brought pot, even though the answer was always no. People got mooned. Cigars were passed around. Things that probably shouldn’t have been burned ended up in the fire. Badger leaned over and said if anyone had pot, it had to be me. I insisted I didn’t, so he got up and wandered inside and heated up a whole plate of lasagna at 11:30 at night.
In the morning, we woke up to misty waters on the lake. The Loon made a bunch of pancakes. We sat outside by the still-burning fire and talked about how everything had changed since we last saw one another. Not the least of which was the ten year anniversary of 9/11. When college started, many of us didn’t have cell phones or email. Now we carried computers in our pockets. So many movies had come out. So much music. When college started, we were kids, fresh-faced babies who didn’t know each other. When college ended, we were friends, prepared but not at all ready to set foot into the world. When we met this time, we were a bunch of teachers, therapists, social workers, scientists, artists, husbands, fathers, sons and friends.
At the end of the weekend, we were ready to see our families again. But we were already planning for next year. On a day of remembrance, we all left with a brand new batch of great memories. We won’t wait another twelve years to see each other again.