Sunday, July 31, 2005


Celebrate we will
Because life is short but sweet for certain
We're climbing two by two
To be sure these days continue
These things we cannot change
- Dave Matthews

Six years ago, on a sunny Saturday morning in late May, the Elisson gang - me, She Who Must Be Obeyed, Elder Daughter, and the Mistress of Sarcasm - were motoring from Somerset, New Jersey, down to Princeton, there to enjoy another day of Reunions Festivities.

We were staying in Somerset because rooms closer in to Princeton were difficult to secure, especially for one such as myself who insisted on using Marriott Freebie Points to pay the Room Tariff. This meant a half-hour drive to get to the Princeton campus in the morning, and a half-hour drive to return in the evening after a full day of Reunions Debauchery. Crap, yes, but SWMBO and I are at the point in life where staying in a sweaty campus dorm room and sharing a bathroom with twenty other people holds no deep Distant Hotel it was.

Princeton Reunions are a serious affair, taking up the greater part of four days. They are held every year, although most alumni tend to return every five or ten years. And, yes, there are a few real diehards who manage to attend every single year. These people are Exceptionally Devoted Alumni, otherwise known as Fucking Psychos. (Except you, Alan.)

Reunions are also a family affair, and so it was only logical to have the Offspring along. Elder Daughter attended her first Reunion weekend when she was three weeks old (it was my fifth reunion year, and at the time we lived a mere hour’s drive away) and has been back every five years until 2004, my thirtieth. And the Mistress of Sarcasm has been along with us for every trip, starting when she was not quite two.

But I digress. Six years ago, it was the morning of my twenty-fifth Reunion. The big one, the one in which our very own class would lead the Saturday afternoon P-Rade, the Honored Guests, as it were.

And then a song came on the radio - a Dave Matthews song, of all things! - and I just Completely Fucking Lost It.

The song was “Two Step,” the second track on the Dave Matthews Band Crash album. (Do people still call them albums anymore?) The song had been getting very heavy play during the summer of 1996, when I had traveled to New England with Elder Daughter to scout out colleges, and it got to where I unconsciously associated it with that few days of being on the road.

But it was the lyrics that set me off.

“Because life is short but sweet for certain...”

For some reason, this simple line hit me like a ton of bricks as I piloted our car through New Brunswick. I got a lump in my throat the size of a baseball, and my eyes filled with tears.

There are other songs that smack me right on the “Feeling the Passage of Time” button. “In My Life” by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Green Day’s “Time Of Your Life.” But that spring day in 1999, the words of “Two Step” seemed to resonate within me. Not only did they draw me back to those few days in the summer of 1996 - the Father-Daughter Road Trip - but they also seemed to speak to that Deep Reunion Nostalgia that is awakened every five years when we go back to Nassau Hall.

Remembrance of Things Past. But in my case, it wasn’t some Cookie-Like Pastry that triggered that awakening.

“Because life is short but sweet for certain...”

Twenty-five years ago - a quarter century! - my friends and I had been fresh-faced kids, ready to take on the world. Ready to step off into the Great Unknown. Yes! Those were the days when everything was possible, when the future lay before us like an unopened book.

A lot happens in twenty-five years. Dreams grow, change, fade, take different shapes. Love comes into your life in many different, and loss as well. And babies become Big People, with lives of their own.

They hit me all at once, all of these thoughts, and I wept.

And then I smiled, for I was in the car that day with the greatest of gifts. Gifts that I could never have imagined twenty-five long years ago.

“Because life is short but sweet for certain...”

Short...but sweet.

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