December 5th this year was an important day. Not for everyone mind you, but for certain folks, it was the day where a friend’s death passed its equinox. Waddhana Chhom Prom, known as Nana to anyone American, silently crossed over the line of being dead longer than he was alive.
As many of us that could, decided to show up and .. I dunno .. reminisce? honor? laugh?
It has been almost twenty years since I sat around a table with this many of my friends at once. A visit here and there, sure. Maybe weddings where one or two of us would show. But all of us in a room? At the same time? It had been years.
Six months ago, I proposed the idea of us gathering together to remember our friend by having a night of gaming. Six months seems like a lot of time to overcome twenty years of momentum .. and in some ways it was. People cooked up a few surprises. Dice were laser etched, mugs were engraved. Meals were planned, and a rather nice bottle of rum was purchased.
Rob, who had offered to referee the game, was given a module that none of us had ever seen – and he set up an adventure around it. Some work was done on characters before hand, in an attempt to save time – but there is only so much that can be accomplished across texts and instant messages. People coordinated what they would bring, and where they might sleep. A timetable of when to visit the cemetery was proposed.
Everyone seemed enthusiastic from the outset, but as the day got closer, real life seemed to interject. Some people got quieter on the Facebook page we were all using to coordinate. Others started talking about reasons they might not make it. I’m not sure about anyone else, but I personally started worrying that almost everyone would flake out at the last minute. As the weekend approached, I secretly wondered if I was trying too hard to recapture something that was long gone.
Maybe, my inner voice suggested, it is possible that friendships can pass a point where they really are done and over?
As usual, human nature overcame my doubts. Every mile between Baltimore and Boston, I was more and more convinced that this was a good idea. I missed these friends. Part of me has always regretted that I essentially walked out of their lives by moving from New England to Baltimore all those years ago. I rolled into Camelot around 9:30pm, and by 10:00pm had met over a dozen of the residents. Some of them were faces already familiar to me from the SCA or The Realms; Maybe with a few more years, and a few more experiences under their belts. Having someone (other than Rob) say ‘Hey Steve!’ almost immediately after entering the common building was rather disarming 🙂
And me, being worried? Foolishness. By 10:00pm Rob and I had already coordinated with our friends Lou and Mike as to when we would get to the cemetery the next morning. Kelly and Ian met us there, although sadly, Ian’s boss had refused to give him the day off – so we parted ways for the weekend. By the time we made it back to Camelot, Randy had already been waiting for us for about forty minutes. [Sorry Randy!] Kevin and Ron showed up shortly after. Only one person skipped out site unseen. One out of ten is better than I had expected.
We could have all stared blankly at each other. We could have let the years, and the different life travels be walls between us.
Thankfully, we didn’t.
Within an hour, everyone was smiling, laughing, and having a great time. Within an hour, we erased twenty years of self-imposed isolation. Within an hour we all realized that we were still amazing friends, and all the years, all the stories, all that time … didn’t even put a dent in what we once had. Jokes were non-stop. Stories were dusted off, and then used as a basis for new ones. Within an hour, we had already made new stories. Seriously! We filled each other in on where our lives wandered, told each other about our kids, our jobs, our ups and downs. We did this in the open and honest way that can only be done when you know, you *KNOW*, that the people sitting across you will not have one second of judgement as you tell the tales.
I’ve had some wonderful weekends in my life, probably more than I’ve deserved.
This one is up at the top of the list.
Thank you, all of my old and dear friends, for letting me recover the parts of my soul I left behind.