October in Michigan brings brisk mornings and cool evenings that bookend rainy days or resurrected summer days, trees with fluttering leaves of vibrant colors, pumpkins on porches, apples by the bushel, and for a small group of old friends and I, a now annual trek to the Upper Peninsula for a weekend of reconnection.
Some of us in this group of friends have known each other since elementary school, for others the connections came later (spouses have become an integral part of this crowd 🙂 ). High school years found many of us on the same track of college prep advanced math and english classes – a bonding experience, no doubt. Among us then, we counted nerds and athletes (some were both), smart kids, social kids, introverts, unique thinkers, band kids, funny, earnest, insecure, and average kids. We shared the usual teenage adventures and misadventures, most of them mild by todays standards. Most of them.
Years passed; marriages, divorces, children, work, careers, relocation…life. Between us, some connections remained strong, others faded.
Then, four years ago, someone had the idea to get as many together as could make it, to Dan and Laura’s cabin in the Upper Peninsula for a “Big Chill” weekend. That was such a success it was repeated the following October as a “Same Time, Next Year” weekend…and yes, the accompanying movies do get watched. (If you are a geek own it).
Last year it was “A Walk in the Woods” weekend and we hiked through the U.P. woods with beautiful walking sticks hand crafted by another former classmate (shout out to Tina!). There were stories told around the campfire, pressing questions answered (what should we do with your ashes when you die?), beers consumed, cookies eaten, and 5:00am texting antics. Believe me, you can’t have this kind of fun with just anyone.
This year’s theme was “Indian Summer”, although the weather was anything but. Cold and rain prevailed, keeping us mostly inside but no less amused. On Saturday, some took a morning walk, chatting up several neighbors and returning with a gift of 2 dozen fresh eggs. Tracey, Marcia, and Cindy took their traditional rowboat ride. We conversed, we ate (lots of cookies), we drank (solo cups of Brian’s Bloody Marys and shots of Dave K.’s Dad’s cherry vodka), and we sang along to ukulele music strummed by Marcia, Dave F. and Ukelaura around a wet campfire.
How to describe the boost I get from spending 3 days in October with this motley crew? Well, when Lori walked in and exclaimed “Elroy!”, I was instantly 15 years old again and basking in that elusive glow of belonging, as evidenced by an affectionate nickname. In this group there is acceptance, affirmation, and affection. We tease, we tell tales, we tell the truth. We hug – everyone and every time. I love that.
When this October rolled around I told a few people I was headed north to spend time with high school friends. Marcia described how she said the same to her son, who then suggested that she could drop the “high school”, at this late stage, and just say friends. I suppose that’s true – but after thinking about it, I’ve decided that I have a mad pride in this group of people and in how long we’ve hung together. It’s been 40 plus years and we’re still making it – making the time, making the effort, making the sacrifice to be there with and for each other.
So yeah, when it’s time for next year’s “Four Seasons” weekend, I’ll be traveling to Manistique for new adventures with these, my high school friends.