|Taken by me at my college alma mater, June 2010|
"And the moments when my good times start to fade
You make me smile like the sun
Fall outta bed, sing like a bird
Dizzy in my head, spin like a record
Crazy on a Sunday night."
Uncle Kracker ~ "Smile"
We had this thing we did, my friend T. and I, back in our shared days of being dizzy in our heads and crazy on Sunday (and many other) nights.
We called it "the PR grin" and we would pose for the camera with big, exaggerated toothy smiles as long and as bright as we believed our futures to be.
During those years, we lived and studied and played and worked together in a PR office with a close-knit group of people who would (we knew then and now) go on to become our friends and our mentors, even as we churned out press releases and affixed dot-matrixed labels to envelopes and sorted newspaper clippings. "The PR grin" was tinged with a splash of sarcasm and satire, our way of saying to put on a happy face, dammit, no matter what was going on in our lives.
One day, our boss made a comment that has stayed with me throughout all of the 20 years since our little group went on to seek new paths, new careers, new lives, new selves. She said that in all likelihood, we would never be part of such a group again, that this bonding, this camaraderie was a rare and special thing. I remember thinking that she was probably right and somewhat deflated that, at 20, professionally-bonding wise, this might be as good as it gets.
And, as she usually was, she was right.
I've thought about the years of The PR Grins many times in those last two decades - as The Husband (who also worked in that same office) and I reminisced about the boss who followed the one who left; as I've interviewed for jobs and searched for something that resembled even a scintilla of that essence that once was, once upon a time; as I've ruminated over opportunities lost and paths taken; as T. and I clinked glasses a year ago; as I've become a bit (maybe a lot, depending on the day) more jaded and cynical and distrustful, particularly in recent months.
I said to The Husband the other night (over the phone, naturally, since that's how we conduct our lives during these long-distance days) that one of the reasons I'm having such a hard time with this move and particularly, leaving this house, is that it represents the last time I was filled with abundant hope, when I still believed in dreams and I trusted that things could get better.
And coming on the heels of having just finished reading Michael Cunningham's brilliant new novel By Nightfall, and as our little group gathers together to have dinner tonight - these five of us together for the first time in more than 20 years, a gathering organized on Facebook - I'm thinking about what has lasted and what remains from those days when we were beautiful, and smiling at how miraculous and glorious it all is that we're still here, all of us, still connected, inextricably woven into each others lives.
Tonight there will be photos extracted from yellowed albums, and there will be glasses clinked and books shared. There will be a large expansive patio, and Mexican food under canopies to protect us from the soon-to-be setting sun, and there will be hugs and laughter from our table and others.
And we will, in the words of Carly Simon from "The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of", take a new picture, the tuning adjusted, still with the same wide grins of old.
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