Time flies when you are having fun, or just not watching. Time passage is unfortunately one of those constants in our lives, unstoppable, relentless, unexpected. As time passes, memories first become blurry, then fade into a thick fog, getting them back is hard and perhaps painful, but oh so worth it.
About a month and a half ago I received a call from someone who I had not heard from in a real long time. Lynn, I remembered her well, called me from FL to let me know that a few of our high school classmates were thinking about getting together to celebrate our 40th anniversary reunion. We graduated in Venezuela from Liceo Agustin Codazzi, the proud class of 1974. She had been put in charge of contacting those of us who had emigrated from Venezuela. She invited me to go to the reunion that was being held in Maracay, or if not possible, join in the celebration via Skype.
That evening I got a message via Skype from another old friend still in Venezuela, Ignacio, who was the spark and fuel getting the reunion off the ground. We talked for quite a while, catching up after so many years. He told me that he had already started a Whatsapp group with people he had contacted and wanted to include me in the group chat.
Getting into the group chat was like going to recess, every day more and more classmates were added as they were being found. Familiar, and some less remembered names popped up incessantly during the day and night, as everyone wanted in on the conversation. Faded old photographs, and old id cards were being shared to help people connect a blurry name to a face or vice versa.
Everyone uploaded recent pictures of themselves, their families and their pets. All shared their stories, their memories, and some even admitted to teenage crushes. Our cellphones became less mobile, as batteries were constantly being drained and it was necessary to keep the phones plugged to the wall. No one wanted to miss a thing. Busy, serious professionals spread around the world behaving like kids, embracing the togetherness that technology now afforded us. The chats would start by 4:30 or 5 am in Maracay, and would continue non-stop until it was midnight in Seattle, when Abe would say good night to Jose Manuel, the last person still standing up a few thousand miles away in Venezuela. No one wanted to miss a thing, even if that meant reading 856 messages piled up since last time one checked the phone.
Ten days before the reunion, everyone living overseas was contacted via Skype by Ignacio, who by then was simply being called “Boss” by all 86 people in the chat. He wanted to make sure that he could make simultaneous Skype video chats with all of us. His plan was to surprise all party goers with the group video call being played on a big screen, so it felt like we were all together again.
It was hard to keep the call all business as he intended, as we were excited to see each other again after so long. I must admit, when we all finally hung up, I felt terribly lonely. My recently found old friends were going to a party and I was just going to watch them on a computer screen…
At one point, Darys, who lives in Miami, decided to have a BBQ at her home, and invited the other 4 classmates that live in South FL, so they could all be together at the same time as the big celebration was taking place in Maracay. Just a few days before the reunion, Abe and I, with the help and encouragement of our friend Lorena who lives in Miami, decided to go to Dary’s party and surprise all in Miami and Venezuela.
Reunion day finally came, the group in Venezuela met in front of our old high school, and drove in a caravan to the party hall. Some cars had “Codazzianos 74” painted on their windows, the party had started.
As planned, we connected via Skype with the party in Venezuela and with other friends in other parts of the world. The excitement was obvious everywhere, there was lots of singing, and carefree dancing to 70’s tunes carefully selected for the occasion.
The celebration was going as planned until Nheriyda surprised everyone by bringing out what she called “The Treasure”. Out of a manila envelope she retrieved school id cards, newspaper clippings and report cards she had collected from many of us 40 years ago and handed them back to their owners. Her message was really heartfelt, “I kept them for the last 40 years, it is now time for your grandchildren to have them” she said.
It’s been two weeks since our reunion. A great majority went to the party in Maracay, some of us got together in Miami, some joined from their homes via Skype, the important thing is that we were all there. The Whatsapp group is as alive and as well visited as it was the days before the celebration.
Boss, we really thank you. You not only succeeded in bringing us closer together, but also in reminding us what the value of friendship is. AREPA, Te la comiste, hermano!
Dedicado a la memoria de Chavita Bravo, FranzJaramillo y Antonio Castro.