The Human Need To Reunite
By Anna Hessel
Getting It Together
We all have a basic need to reunite with those who are important to us; there are many types of reunions: high school, college, and family, being some of the most popular. We see television, movie, and band reunions, all of which bring together memories which allow us to reminisce about times gone by.
Reunions in the Media
There are a multitude of films about reunions between old flames and friends – I have watched dozens of these movies on the Hallmark Channel, alone. I am sure we can all remember “Class Reunion”, “Peggy Sue Got Married”, “Beautiful Girls”, “10 Years”, “The Big Chill”, “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion”, and “American Reunion”, just to name a few.
Multiple novels about reunions fill the book shelves. “The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion” by Fannie Flagg, “After The Reunion” by Rona Jaffe, “The Odyssey of Reunion” by Abhisek Pani, “Blake’s High School Reunion” by Marcia Carrington, “Murder at the High School Reunion” by Steve Demaree, “How to Prepare for your High School Reunion, and Other Midlife Musings” by Susan Allen Toth. There is a bevy of books titled “High School Reunion”, and plethora of ones simply titled “Reunion” or “The Reunion”. There is even “The High School Reunion Diet: Lose 20 Years in 30 Days” by David A. Colbert – this particular book reminds me of my husband’s ten year high school reunion – lots of preparation on our part to visit three hours with many people he barely knew.
How To Survive Your Class Reunion
Psychology Today has dubbed the high school reunion as “psychological time travel”. Guideposts Magazine offers several tips for enjoying your class reunion. A good start is recognizing that many of your old classmates may also have anxiety about attending. A great suggestion Guideposts made was to reconnect ahead of time on social media. Another suggestion was to pick up the old year book and leaf through it, reminding you of the faces, the fashions and the vibe of the time. When at the event introduce yourself, get up and move around, ask others about their current lives, and spend time with people you didn’t know back in the day.
Definitely avoid heated and divisive topics such as politics, instead focus on the memories. Everyone has experienced setbacks and troubles, as well as happiness in their lives since you knew them. Allow the passing years to disappear by looking at everyone with new eyes and a forgiving heart. Don’t obsess about losing that last 10 pounds before you reunite; the fact is we all age physically, even the prom queen, football star, and cheerleaders. If it is any comfort, Chicago Magazine tells us, “your 50th high school reunion will be much better than your 20th. Let’s face it, folks, as we age, we learn to not sweat the small stuff”.
Whether called reunions or just “family get-togethers” families have gathered for centuries for no other reason than to celebrate family heritage, faith and fun. Reunions not only give a sense of intentional preservation and family bonding for people, but satisfy a need to nurture. In the United States reunions have deep roots in African-American history, painfully recalling slavery and its toll on family units as they were torn apart and sold off to various plantations. African-American family reunions may well date back to the Emancipation. “Information wanted” ads were common in newspapers of the day, and may be the root of African-American reunions as people searched for lost and separated family members.
A Shifting Population
Between 1915 and 1940, a period dubbed as the “Great Migration” close to 4 million African-Americans traveled south-to-north, many heading to New York and Chicago. The enormity of that black population shift encouraged the growth of family reunions in that demographic. The significance of extended family formed the idea of the need for togetherness at specific times when all could be reunited. For more information, please visit the website of the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture: #APeoplesJourney.
Today, family reunions in all cultures symbolize heritage, fellowship, and a sense of community.
Ms. Hessel is a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists