These were the childhood cronies I’ve known since birth, the boys from down the street who I rode bicycles around town with, swam in nearby Lake Champlain with, played little league baseball with, went to middle school with, went to prom with, graduated high school with, and set off into the unknown world with.
But now, they are names and job titles I read about on Facebook and get the occasional birthday text message or phone call from. We’ve all kept in touch, in some way or another, even though we’re scattered all around the country, all living separate lives in different towns, with different girlfriends, fiancés and wives.
With my 30th birthday looming on the horizon, I find myself (more than usual) taking stock of the last three decades. I wonder, as we all do, if the path I’m on is right for me, and if it has been worth it, through all the sacrifices, struggles and feelings of being in no man’s land when seemingly everyone around you has “it” figured out.
In my early 20s, friend’s weddings left me thinking, “Why are they getting married so young? There’s a whole big world out there, with billions of people and opportunities?” As I slid into my mid-20s, I looked at weddings as a way for a free meal, some good booze, and perhaps a chance encounter with a cute bridesmaid. Towards my late 20s, I became jaded with weddings, where I found myself standing on the dance floor, watching two friends have their first dance together, thinking, “Well, looks like I won’t be finding that happiness anytime soon.”
Approaching 30, I feel a mesmerizing sense of clarity with my intentions and interactions in the world. Maybe it’s me getting older, maybe it’s simply the fact I’ve been through a lot, for good or ill, and came out the other side, still standing, still fighting the good fight and pursuing just causes with passion and sincerity.
The odd thing in all of this was the recent wedding at the Belhurst Castle. Yes, these folks were friends of 20 or more years, but could we still have that connection? Driving to the wedding, I speculated to my girlfriend over what would come of this weekend with my old cronies. I knew what they were up to, at least based on Facebook, but are they happy? What were their dreams and goals these days? Did they even want to keep in touch with me?
All of those questions washed away to the ground beneath my feet with the numerous hugs received from those old familiar faces. The voices, the smiles, the laughs — it was all the same, it was how I remembered. We saluted over drinks and danced into the wee hours of the night. It may have been years since we were all together, but time, especially amid genuine friendship, does not exist, where distance, both physical and emotional, is erased, replaced with an overwhelming sense of self.
With my 20s in the rearview mirror, I now look upon weddings as reunions, as a sacred place where the scattered dots of humanity, of my past, converge and bounce and vibrate off of each other, happily. It was surreal to stand there, posing for photos, my arms around the necks of my hometown brothers who will always know me better than anyone, to see my beloved girlfriend smile at me from behind the camera, to hear the sounds of folks I dearly miss and will always catch right back up with, no matter the time between encounters.
The next morning, we all met up at a family lake house not far from Belhurst Castle, for lunch, some swimming, to tie up any loose ends of conversation, and to take one last breath before we hopped into the car or onto the airplane, back to our Monday morning realities and responsibilities.
We sat on the lake, toes in the water, and saluted the sunny day above, the bright futures awaiting each of us. Eventually, goodbyes were said, hugs given, as car engines were started towards destinations unknown. Heading home, I smiled, squeezed my girlfriend’s hand a little tighter, already looking forward to the next wedding.
Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all.
1: Whitewater Bluegrass Company will perform at 7: 30 p.m. Aug. 1 at Bridge Park in Sylva.
2: The Mountain High BBQ Festival and Car Show will be held Aug. 8-9 at the Wayne Proffitt Agricultural Center in Franklin.
3: World-renowned tenor J. Mark McVey will perform at 7 p.m. Aug. 9 at Stuart Auditorium in Lake Junaluska.
4: The Canton Moose Lodge 515 Mater Fair will be held at 9 a.m. Aug. 2 at 12 Penland Street.
5: Owner of the Sun will perform at 8 p.m. Aug. 1 at Nantahala Brewing Company in Bryson City.