The Fifty Year Hug
by Robb Shultz
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Not For Sale
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"The Fifty-Year Hug"
Some time ago I attended my fifty year high school class reunion. The backstory is that I think I attended only one reunion prior to this. Circumstances had prevented me from attending any others. I must also admit that I often felt like I was on the edge of the "crowd" I so admired during high school and the decades that followed. They were "in", and I was a "hanger-on". Except there was one person who, over the years, kept inviting me to attend each reunion.
We all called her "Lovey", (instead of "Lovetta", her given name) which was the perfect name for her. During school she was the kindest, prettiest, and all other positive superlatives ending in "-est". When reunion times approached, Lovey was on the Reunion Committee with the other former students you would expect to make things happen.
I'm still mystified as to how she was able to track me down after all these years. I was even more puzzled as to why. No matter. Turns out I'm grateful she did. Don't believe I've ever known anyone so persistent. At any rate, I believe Facebook was her divining rod and I was found, and thrilled that someone would go to so much effort. My life had pretty much fallen apart at that time and Lovey's frequent nudgings and invitations worked--- I would attend the Golden Anniversary of my high school graduation class.
I began reading (Facebook, again) the list of attendees: who had been doing what, where people lived, what they were doing, who was being searched for, who had passed on, etc. The more I read, the more enthused I was about attending. I thought this might be my last, best opportunity to re-connect with the people who, in retrospect, had become very important to me during those crucial developmental years of my life. Plus, I might get to actually see Lovey again.
Unemployed for too many months, financial woes, a shattered relationship, poor self-image did not deter me. I was determined to get to the party. Don't really remember how I managed to pull myself together for the journey, but I did. With each passing moment at 550 mph, I got more enthused about the gathering. In the story of Camelot, at least in the original movie with Vanessa Redgrave and Richard Harris, there is a scene when Arthur and Merlin are in dialogue. Arthur asks Merlin, "How old are you?". Merlin's reply was something like this: "I don't age. I youth-en." The meaning was that Merlin continues to get younger. And that describes how I felt as I traversed the two thousand miles from my home to my home town that day.
Arriving at SFO International airport late on the morning of the reunion i found the weather to be as familiar as it was decades earlier. It was a warm day in November in the City by the Bay. I had been transported back in time to the home of my youth---with clear, blue skies, the same familiar fragrance of the city, the Golden Gate Bridge where i could look to the east and see Alcatraz as a backdrop to a yacht race in progress, and far to the west where the Farallon Islands were barely visible. Home again.
And then things got dramatically better. But first, more backstory to those high school years of long ago. She never knew it nor did i ever tell anyone---ever---but I had a high-school crush on Lovey. We never dated. I had no car. I didn't play on the football team. Wasn't very big or good-looking (some things never change!). I had no self-confidence. But I still admired what a gracious, kind, gorgeous girl she was. Everybody did.
So, here i was, back for a magnificent, pleasant day in Northern California. After a scenic ride from the airport to the site of the reunion, I emerged from the shuttle bus to register at the hotel where the reunion would take place.
As I entered the lobby, I looked to my right and there, about fifty feet away was Lovey. As if on cue, we both dropped what we had or were doing and ran toward each other. As we met and embraced, and I whispered in her ear, "Lovey, I've been waiting fifty years to do this."
The rest of the day and night was spent in reverie, re-uniting, re-connecting, and remembering with the rest of my former classmates. Although those hours were truly memorable, an elixir or tonic that made me feel young again, they are but a dim shadow compared to the long-sought moment in the lobby that afternoon when two high school kids hugged in the hall without being sent to the principal's office, sharing an embrace for the first time. A private, personal wonderful moment that will last a lifetime.
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