Standing:Bill, Dave, Mary, Jan, Carolyn, Bob, Alice Seated: Sue, Arlene, Liz
In the first part of this series I shared that we four childhood friends made the decision to gather together for a reunion. And in the second part, we planned the where and the how. In this third section, it has finally happened and there is so much to tell that it will have to come in parts as we spent each day. (If you haven’t seen parts one and two, click the link and see us as we looked THEN!!)
This has had to be one of the best decisions I have made in a very long time. While it took us a lot of planning and time to put this together, I could never have imagined the benefits that I have reaped from spending these precious days with my life long friends. The question it left us with was why it had taken us so long to do this and with the promise to repeat in again- soon. Next time, maybe it will be a cruise.
Our decision to start our first reunion where we had our roots was the right one. I think it added an extra dimension to the emotions we shared at this gathering. Through the years, we’ve had brief visits with one or another but never until this time were the four of us together all at one time since we each began our own life’s journeys decades ago. Alice came in from California, Janice was still in Pennsylvania, about a 40 minute drive from the city, Mary from Maryland. I flew up from Florida and spent the night with Mary, who then let me share a ride with her to the Pittsburgh area.
Upon arriving in the Mon Valley, Mary and I took a quick drive through the small town of Charleroi where we spent our youth. This once thriving, booming place was now pretty much depressed. Our high school was gone along with the favorite drug store where we gathered for cherry cokes after school, and the movie theater, shops and dining spots we frequented were all closed. All our special haunts – gone or in decay. The town was a mere shadow of the place I remembered. It somehow felt like losing a cherished friend as the picture that still remained in my mind faded away to this current image. But we still had the first meeting of the four to look forward to later that afternoon and that buoyed our spirits.
I can’t begin to tell you how it felt to be with them all at the same moment. It felt like four pieces to a puzzle slipping into place. Between the hugs, kisses, tears and laughter I can only describe the moment like a rush of pure JOY. It immediately took me back to how tight we were growing up and felt that same closeness and connection today as then. How rare it is to have friendships so true and long lasting.
We had a lovely first dinner that evening at a spot in Western Pennsylvania called The Speers Street Grill which we capped off with the group photo. We were a lively party of ten that included Mary’s brother Bob and sister-in-law Sue, Janice’s Mom, Liz, and Alice’s husband Bill along with two of her close friends, Carolyn and Dave, all of whom except Bill were still local. We had lively, fun dinner. The staff provided us with our own little room where we could just be ourselves without worry of disturbing other diners. When we were children, our four families lived within several blocks of each other so our parents were good friends as well. So many of our social events were shared not only with family but with these friends as well. They were really like extended family and we felt as at home in each others homes as we would be in our own. Now, Liz is the last of our parents and it was so special that we could spend time with her this first evening.
Following dinner, Mary, Alice and I followed Jan and Liz back to her home in Jeanette for more visiting and more food before heading to our hotel for the night. Back in the hotel, we winded down and finally said our good nights still high from the evening and looking forward to heading to Pittsburgh in the morning. I fell into contented slumber thinking how lucky am I. For tonight, all was right in my little world.