Tag Archives: Reunion

Old Friends, by Carole Howard

It happened over and over: Two people introduced themselves to each other. There was a brief moment in which each reconciled the other’s older face with his or her memory of that same face 50 years ago. And then there was an intake of breath and an outburst of unfettered affection. The joy was palpable.

My husband and I hosted a 50-year reunion of his group of Peace Corps Volunteers. They were known as “Senegal 2,” since they were the second group to have been sent to the young country. Twenty-one were able to make it to the event, some with spouses. I’d met only a few of them before – one of them introduced my husband and me to each other.

They came from all over the country. Mostly retired, they’d spent the last half-century being meat producers, film-makers, educators, health care professionals, social workers, entrepreneurs, businessmen, techies.   But a half century ago, they were well-diggers, construction specialists, health workers, sports coaches, and teachers.

Notice the shirts/ties, dresses/pumps, and the Pan Am propeller plane, which took off from Idlewild (now JFK) Airport

Notice the shirts/ties, dresses/pumps, and the Pan Am propeller plane, which took off from Idlewild (now JFK) Airport

 

They recalled and celebrated the last time they were all together, when they were in their 20’s. One of the themes that emerged was the enduring power of the Peace Corps experience.

“Yes, I helped the people in my village,” said a trim man with neatly-combed gray hair.  “After we dug a well in their village, they no longer had to walk miles to the nearest water source and then carry a heavy bucket back, balanced on their heads. But, truly, I think it helped me even more than them. I met myself during those years.”

Don't they look great?

There were funny stories, too: One man cracked up as he told of his fury when a new room-mate ate the can of mom-sent apple pie filling he’d been saving for Thanksgiving. A woman with exuberant gray hair and an expressive 70-year old face acted out the scene when she’d tried to explain to an African counterpart that she boiled her water before drinking it because of “little animals that live in the water that you can’t see but that go away if the water gets hot.”  And then there was my husband, who’d started a garden in a village where they ate rice and fish, hoping to provide the vitamins found only in vegetables; too bad the first and most prolific crop was detested radishes.

I admired the courage and initiative of their twenty-something selves. They heeded JFK’s call to “ask what you can do for your country” and went to Senegal, a country most had never heard of, in Africa, a continent much less known to Americans then than now. Many traveled out to the bush and, with the Peace Corps’ help, established a life for two years. No email, no cell phone, no Skype, no blog, no Facebook. Inspiring, really.

For the ancestors

For the ancestors

They told their stories and reminisced, remembering their youth with pride, and they reflected on aging. They reconnected with each other. As the group toasted their experiences and their friendship, they first poured some wine into the ground, “for the ancestors,” as they did with their Senegalese counterparts, with palm wine, many years ago.

I don’t think I’ve ever met such a remarkable group of people: smart, funny, reflective, friendly, warm.

As I mentioned in my last piece, “Ask Not….,” there are now about 215,000 returned Peace Corps Volunteers. Do you know any of them? Did you ever ask them about their experiences? What did they say?

 

 

*     *     *

Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, published by Second Wind Publishing, in which the setting is Senegal and the Peace Corps plays a role.

10 Comments

Filed under life, musings, Travel, writing

Christmas With My Sister For The Second Time by Coco Ihle

Joanie & Coco

Joanie & Coco

Next week I’ll be traveling to spend Christmas for the second time with my sister Joanie. Our first Christmas together was when we were in our fifties. We’d searched for one another for over fifty years after having been separated as small children, sent into foster care and later separately adopted.

Our reunion in 1994 was a fairy tale filled with exquisite joy and discovery. Two Christmases later we went to the Mall and sat on Santa’s knee for the first time together. Instead of asking for material possessions, we told him how grateful we were for the gift of each other. We’d missed many years of sharing this special holiday and many others, but we intended to make up for lost time. And we have.

My sister has two married daughters who have children of their own, so I have an extended family, something I thought I’d never have. Just think, I have two nieces with wonderful spouses, three great nieces and a great nephew, and I must not forget, even dogs and cats. I feel as though I should hum the tune to “A Partridge in a Pear Tree.” I’m sure the kids have grown quite a bit since I saw them last and I look forward to their hugs.

Joanie and her husband live in a Hansel and Gretel log cabin in a forest in the Adirondacks. It’s a magical place that looks like a scene from a Thomas Kincade painting. The warm glow of light shining through the windows onto the glistening snow outside. The sound of total silence, save the sighing of the pines in the breeze. The crisp smell of winter and stars brighter than I’ve ever seen them.

Inside the aroma of dinner, the chatter of family, the warm snugness of a throw over the legs in front of the fire, and prominent splashes of red make the rooms cozy and inviting. The glow of candlelight setting off the shining golden color of the logs as they climb up to the rafters of the cathedral ceiling. And the gentle sound of  Christmas carols floating down from the balcony.

All these memories I’ll be able to re-live soon, and I can’t wait!

22 Comments

Filed under life, music, musings, writing