2015 Grateful 7

Who’s yer woman? The tall one. Three pairs of eyes vectored on the poor girl as we tried in vain to place her. Names were tossed out and discarded – too short, too tall, not the right accent. Between us we couldn’t figure her out. Given that we’d been to school with everyone in the room and had probably spent five years in her company, that was bad.

RU2Two years ago, the Class of ’83 had its 30th reunion. I missed it. While everyone else was rolling around the floor singing Rock the Boat, I was watching some Balkan friends being baptised in the River Jordan. Each to their own. By all accounts it was a great night, one that made great inroads into the next morning. I had to make do with the photographs. It felt a little voyeuristic  – or worse, looking at a mugshot book down the Garda Station asking myself if I knew this person or that.

RU3This year, half of the class turned 50, so another reunion was in order [any excuse for a party, I hear you say and what’s wrong with that?] This time, I made sure that I’d be home for it. Not as many showed up apparently [some only got as far as the bar and hadn’t made it up the stairs by the time I left so the reunioning was going on everywhere]  but those that did were in fine fettle. Fifty seemed a state of mind rather than a reality. It was like being back in the prefab classrooms that were Scoil Mhuire, before the posh new school was built.

Mini biographies floated around the room, snapshot CVs that accounted for the missing 32 years. Like me, not everyone had made the last one, so for some of us it was a first get-together – and we had to do it without the benefit of name tags.

Conversations that strayed into the ‘I always thought you were… ‘ zone were perhaps the most revealing. It’s amazing how much time alters our perceptions and how, back then, as teenagers, our visions of ourselves came nowhere near to those that others had of us. Had I known then what I know now, perhaps those times might have been less difficult, less awkward, less traumatic. But hey – that’s all part of growing up.

RU1I’ve been battling bronchitis for three weeks and was on the water. I figured I had till midnight before it all came got to be too much. But  last I did. I was impressed with myself. And more than a little amused when someone told me that they didn’t recognise my voice – thankfully, that high-pitched squeak isn’t really me, no. Judging from the photos, everyone else lasted way longer. I missed the boat … again.

Some say reunions are twee. Passé. Excruciating painful. I disagree. Even without the anesthesia of alcohol, I had a blast. I caught up with people who have popped into my mind over the years as I wondered what became of them. I got to chat with those I see all too occasionally. And I got to hear what everyone has been up to in the last few lifetimes.

To those who took the time to organise it all – you know who ye are – a massive thanks for going to the all that effort.  I’m really glad I took the time to go. Appreciate the invitation.

PS. The tall girl? We finally figured it out.

2013 Grateful 15

I’m not a great fan of social media. Part of me thinks that instead of bringing us closer together, it’s driving us further apart. I loathe the addictive behaviour that comes part and parcel with owning a smartphone. I abhor the idea of 24/7 availability and the expectations this creates. I detest the fact that all too often people in my company would now prefer to text others not present rather than fully engage with me. Perhaps I’m losing my touch.

I worry that Facebook has birthed a generation where envy is rampant, where peer comparison is the norm, and where we look at other people’s lives wondering what we’ve done (or not done) with our own.

While the writer in me admires the brevity of 140-character tweets, the raconteur in me mourns the loss of the colourful prose that used to lead to a final, often irrelevant, point. So keyed up and keyed in are we today, that we no longer have time for long-winded stories and in our  conciseness seem to be relegating swathes of anecdotes to the untold.

And yet, social media has its moments.

Me as a maid in My Fair Lady

Me (back right) as a maid in My Fair Lady

Some months ago, when I was home in Ireland, my mother mentioned that she’d given my email address to a classmate of mine who was one of a few organising our 30-year school reunion. I didn’t pay much attention at the time as I’d no intention of going. Thirty years is thirty years, no matter how you look at it. People move on. They go their separate ways. I’d forgotten the names of many and doubted very much if any would remember anything about me other than that my father had the misfortune to head the investigation into the disappearance of the racehorse Shergar – and I’d heard enough horse jokes to last me a lifetime.

When I saw the date and realised that I would be in Israel, I was relieved. Online one night, looking for some diversion, I searched for the group page on Facebook, curious to see the changes time had wrought. Old photos, old faces, old names popped up. And daily, the numbers interacting with the page grew, the stories started, and the past resurrected itself piece by piece. But alongside that came the updates – marriages, kids, homes, careers – and for the first time I saw the power that Facebook and its ilk has when it comes to reconnecting people.

The Debs... 1982

The Debs… 1982

Before social media, we’d have been communicating by written letters and phone calls – both of which are way too easy to ignore. I’d most likely have read the invitation, checked to see if the few I’ve remained in touch with were going, and if the answer was nay, then I’d have binned it. But with Facebook, the interaction is continuous, the conversations are in real time, and the thoughts of attending a 30-year reunion are now hugely appealing – but I’ll be in Israel. And I’m strangely disappointed.

This week, although I never thought I’d see the day when I’d admit to this in public, I’m grateful to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook for facilitating the bringing together of so many people, for giving us a forum to reconnect, and for aiding and abetting in the publication of photos that have kept me amused all week. I’m particularly grateful though to the organising team; to those who decided to run with this and are doing such fantastic job of reconnecting so many. Nice job, lads.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out the post Grateful 52