Specifically, I am thinking about memories we have about our past associations with groups. For some reason, after a certain age in one’s life, the memories of being associated with groups come to mind more often. As I have aged, for example, I think more about grade school and high school moments. Others I know have the same thoughts and often include being a part of sports teams, and certainly the military.
I know many men who spend a lifetime not talking about being in the military (and maybe for good reason) and then all of sudden, recalling such an affiliation becomes important. All sorts of clubs, reunions and on-line chat groups exist for those who want to look back at military service with a deep sense of pride. My own father joined a veteran group and met every year in Florida. Someone in the group even developed a newsletter. Perhaps the exercise of reminiscing with people who lived the same experience helps to connect us to the past from which we might feel ourselves ebbing?
When we hear people talking about the ‘old days’ in a certain group such as a military branch, a particular college or fraternity or sorority, an outsider will feel strangely disconnected. It is one of those “You would have had to have been there to know what we’re talking about” experiences. This is perhaps what makes such memories so vivid and important later in life, the exclusivity of being in a certain time and place and with certain people.
I know this sense of exclusivity while working in a diocese as a religious order priest. Every time we got together, the priests of the diocese who likely went to the same seminary could go on forever with memories. It may have been interesting conversation that I would politely attend, but in the end, I could not relate to it. The same would, of course, be true for diocesan priests listening to a bunch of monks revisiting the past.
Class reunions are another way to get people of the same history in the same frame of mind. I receive emails from companies that want to make connections for me for a fee. The advertisements give you just enough information to rile your curiosity. The ads whet your appetite to go down memory lane and to commiserate with people who were shared in the very same experiences you were going through. It’s an interesting phenomenon to be intrigued by questions about what ever happened to so and so. It’s a simple shared experience that keeps us connected whether we ever see each other again or not. What is also interesting is when you remember someone, you wonder if that person ever thinks of you.