“My friends serve as the touchstones of my character.”

It was rainy and cold this year, my fifth homecoming at UMass.  I’ve now been out of band longer than I was in it.  My wife, two years younger, still knows a few names and faces of active bandos, but few of them know her and none of them know me.

Each year, I have to psyche myself up for homecoming.  I know I want to go, and I know I will go, but each year I drag my feet.  I’m slow to register, slow to request time off, slow to get packed.  I say I don’t know why I’m so hesitant, but I know why:  I’m afraid that this will be the year I go and nobody knows me.  It’s like the songs on the band bus where we all loved to sing along, but nobody knew when the song would end and nobody wanted to be the last one to stop singing.  Nobody wanted to be the last note hanging in the air when the music stopped.  Nobody wants to be the last bando to realize that other people have moved on.

I have moved on, of course.  We all have.  As a group, we’ve amassed a collection of jobs, wives, husbands, new friends, new cars, new interests.  We’ve gained weight and lost hair (well, I  haven’t, but I’m speaking generally, here).  We’ve changed.  We’ve moved on.  The point of homecoming is that, once a year, we come back.  Coming back doesn’t negate all of our collective movement, it celebrates it.  Even gives us a way to measure it, perhaps.

I don’t come back because I miss performing.  I knew when I packed up my flute after Merry Maples 1999 that I’d never play it seriously again.  And I was okay with that.  I’d been playing flute since I was in fourth grade, and if I were destined for greatness with the instrument, I felt sure it would have happened already.  

I don’t come back because I miss the past.  The past had some great moments, but my present has a lot to recommend it, thankyouverymuch.  It’s been years since I had to cram for a test, or ask someone out, or wear one (increasingly funky) wool uniform to three events in one weekend.  These are experiences I do not miss.  I now have a wife, and a dog, and a job I find interesting, and those are compelling reasons for me to prefer the present to the past.

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