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

No, I come back because every so often I need to remind myself which way is up.  We go through life changing and adapting, and it’s easy (even tempting) to lose ourselves in those changes.  I felt well-liked and well-loved in the UMass Band.  Five years out, if I can go back to UMass, and if my fellow alumni still recognize in me the qualities they liked, then I know I’m doing all right.  My friends serve as the touchstones of my character.

Also, there are some of you I simply need to see.  Some of you were my good friends, and even if we’ve fallen out of touch, it’s still good to check in with you.  Behind the small talk and the perfunctory questions is the deep sense of relief that you’ve come back, that you’re okay, that life is working out.

Some of you were mere acquaintances of mine, and what has surprised me as I’ve gotten older is how important it is for me to see you, too.  Some of these faces aren’t even names to me, just “that guy who always wore the funny hat” or “those girls who harmonized the bus songs.”  I’m not much of a stargazer, but every so often I’ll be walking on a clear night, and I’ll look up and take notice.  I don’t know all the names, but I’ll see the familiar constellations and there’s a cosmic reassurance in that.  When I come back to homecoming and I see the familiar faces arranged in friendly groups and clusters, I get the same feeling.  The world is okay and I still know which way is up.  Some of you are the stars by which I navigate, and your role is no less significant just because I never mentioned it to you.

So come back.  Keep coming back, or, if you’ve never come back, start.  Your friends are holding your spot and they can’t wait to see you.  You may scoff at the notion of marching again, but trust me, you’re not the only one who feels that way.  Some of us, you see, have always hated marching.  We just want to be with the kind of people who love it.

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