If April is the cruelest month, as T.S. Eliot suggests, then June most certainly is its alter ego, the sure-fire winner of the live-and-let-live prize. June is among our most celebratory months, probably second only to December in terms of festive occasions per week. Most colleges’ graduation ceremonies (and the parties that come with them) hit the calendar in June. And, of course, June still reigns supreme as our nation’s wedding month de rigeur.
Holiday shopping spins most of the wheels of the national consumer economy, yes, but weddings play their part as well. Every day, there are 2,600 of them in the USA. The average number of guests invited to an American wedding is 178, and the average wedding budget is $20,000. Altogether, a staggering $72 billion a year is spent on weddings annually in the USA.
Weddings and graduations are usually June’s godsend to thousands of small businesses all across America. But there’s another ubiquitous June “happening” that quietly pumps significant sums into the national economy.
That industry, if you can call it that, is the high-school and/or college reunion industry. Like Rodney Dangerfield, this “industry” gets no respect; there are no national economic-impact studies (at least none I could find) that describe that impact. Aside from anecdotal information here and there, the only businesses that indisputably benefit from these gatherings of young people grown old apart, yet brought together briefly, are caterers, breweries, and wineries.
But a reunion can be a very special thing. I should know, having attended both high school and college reunions rather religiously, from about the tenth or fifteenth gathering on. I’m lucky in that, for me, these New England appearances are cameos, as I have long lived a thousand-plus miles away from my high school and college roots. The reunions always give me a chance to “go home” again.
But I come away, each and every time, with new friends. In fact, a significant number of my current high school and college friends are people with whom I had rarely mingled in college or high school, but only had met at various reunions along the way.
As I write this, I am prepping for my own high-school’s Fiftieth Reunion — Catholic Memorial, West Roxbury, Massachusetts, Class of 1966 — three weeks hence. As our President (not our class president; the American one) used to like to say, I am fired up and ready to go.
I’ve been luckier than most in being able to keep the bonds with my past more lasting than a weekend reunion, for a variety of reasons. I grew into a Memphis job that allowed me to go back and forth to Boston frequently, more frequently as my parents aged. After my mother’s passing in 2000, my father kept living in our ordinary home (think Archie Bunker) just over the Boston city limits, a mile away from the high school I walked to daily, until he required more and more support. As he was declining, I was able to give him what he needed from afar and, more and more, on site.
My father passed in October of 2013. He had insisted upon dying at home, and I was there with him when he did, surrounded with memories and a family presence that made him proud. The house we had moved into in 1955 — when I was 7 — is now in my name, and I like to think my dad is most proud today of the fact that I’m not going anywhere.
Poor Tom Wolfe. He had it all wrong. You can go home again. You just have to play your cards right.
P.S. — Happy Father’s Day, Dad.