It was pointed out to me a while ago that there are two themes that seem to crop up consistently in my writing. I can’t say that either of these is a conscious choice. I don’t sit down to start a story and think “oh, the theme for this has to be…” I get intrigued by a character or an image or a piece of dialogue and the story goes from there. But in looking back over my published and unpublished work, I can see that these two themes do seem to be prominent.
One is a search for self, or an exploration of personal identity.
The other is the idea of Reunion, of people long separated encountering each other again.
In Christmas Ghosts, one of the current works-in-progress, both themes are present. Sixth grader Colin McCann is trying to figure out who is in the aftermath of his older brother’s sudden death; he also seizes upon the possibility of a Christmas Eve reunion with his brother thanks to something he reads in a book.
Despite the presence of the idea of reunion in much of my writing, I actually have attended very few reunions in my adult life that weren’t officially a part of my job. When I was a kid, every summer we’d attend a family reunion on my maternal grandmother’s side of the tree; a decade or so ago we had a string of years where my father’s side of the family held well-attended reunions of which I managed to show up at just one. I’ve missed my high school graduating class reunions (Mahopac High School Class of 1984, coming up on 30 years now), and my college graduating class reunions (Elmira College Class of 1993, coming up on 20 years). My former job held annual winter reunions for their summer camp program; while I enjoyed attending those, it was also part of my job so there was no chance of not knowing when or where the event was happening.
Thanks to a change in travel plans for my current job, I found myself able to attend a reunion this weekend at my old high school. Back in 1984, I was lucky enough to be chosen as a vocalist for music department’s “rock ensemble” Illusion. Illusion had started in 1981 as part of a “jazz-rock ensemble” before splitting off to find its own identity in 1982. Thirty years later, now under the direction of an old friend (and former drama student) of mine, it is still running strong and pulling in packed high school auditorium houses. The tenor of the show has changed (in our day all 8 vocalists were on stage the entire time and background-harmonizing on most songs, and we had a horn section; now the vocalists rotate and the horn section is long gone) but the spirit and drive are still there.
The reunion itself was held before Saturday night’s performance, in the high school library. I was one of the first to arrive, but not by much. Two hours brought a lot of familiar faces, and a lot of peeling off into smaller groups to catch up or to tour the high school. I saw people I never thought would remember me (Rich Lucchese! Tracy Smith! Matt Schoenberg! Bob Huott!), the shy underclassman when they were the group’s stars. I saw several of my fellow band-members (Deb Schwartz! Joey Apicella! Tom Huott!) and a lot of folks who were involved in the plays I directed and stage-managed at the school after I graduated (Jon Lobell! Jay Dalupan! Jude-Ann Esposito! Mike Rizzuto! Michelle Laubin!). There was a pretty clear demarcation between the “Oldsters” (circa 1992 and earlier) and the younger crowd, but there was some mingling.
I’m pretty sure there was a smile on my face the whole night. Because of the extensive traveling for my current job, I don’t get to attend a lot of events like this, but I’m glad the forces of the universe aligned to get me to this event.
And I’ve been thinking about Rich Lucchese’s idea of putting a history of Illusion together in book form, tracing the way it morphed from ensemble to almost-Glee-like show choir to genuine rock band.