I had an interesting end to the Thanksgiving Holiday last week as my High School Classmates were gathering for our 25th Reunion on Friday night in suburban Philadelphia. Normally this would be another missed opportunity to connect with my former Lower Merion High School friends as I moved far away after High School and do not make it back to the area with any great frequency.
Occasionally I will have a work trip that will drop me in Philadelphia for 48 hours. Those trips of course start with an early morning flight leaving the house in Austin sometime around 5:30 a.m., followed by a cross-country flight, baggage claim, rental car counters and a quick sandwich someplace.
An afternoon of meetings, dinner with a client or a remote employee and finally a check-in time at the hotel of about 10:00 p.m. E-mails, phone call follow-up, an early morning training run and then a “do-over” until it is time to fly back home to Austin.
Interesting that growing up in the Philadelphia area for the first 18 years of my life, Ardmore, PA was home. I felt like it always would be. The little house I grew up in on East Spring Avenue, across from South Ardmore Park was “home”.
That is where I would learn to walk, talk, read, study, fix my bicycle and play sports. Where my Dad used to pitch a nerf ball to me in the living room for me to hit with my small Phillies Bat. As I got older I would hit line drives off of the painting above the couch in the living room. I can only imagine what my Mom thought about that.
I’m pretty sure my Dad thought the same thing as me. “Base Hit”.
About the same time I went away to college in South Carolina my parents sold the house on Spring Avenue and retired to Charleston. Long before the days of Twitter, Facebook, cell phones and e-mail, I was pretty much on my own. Sure there was the occasional Sunday phone call “back home” to friends when the rates went down, or we could write letters, but for the most part, my suburban Philadelphia allegiance was reduced to rooting for the Phillies, Eagles, Sixers and Flyers.
I still do with great passion to this day. Afterall, you can take the boy out of Philly, but you can’t take the Philly out of the boy.
But being in Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving for the first time really since 1997 or so, granted me the opportunity to fly down quickly on Friday afternoon, attend our class reunion and then fly back home to Austin on a 5:35 a.m. flight Saturday morning.
It would be a tight trip, but I was looking forward to connecting with some old friends that I quite literally had not seen in close to 25 years.
My closest friend, dating all the way back to Ms. Nancy’s kindergarten class is Steve Boschi. Bosch and I had been through just about everything together. Elementary school at Wynnewood Road School. Football at St. Coleman’s, our first bikes, cars and even girlfriends. Much like my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Boschi sold the house on Inwood Road, just a couple blocks away from my house and moved out to Devon.
Steve’s childhood home was no longer “his”, but with the exception of his big sister who moved away, now living in Houston, TX ironically, Steve stayed “home”.
Steve and I planned to get together a little bit before the reunion started to have an adult beverage and catch up a bit on things. As we sat talking about work, life, kids and marathoning, Steve glanced over my shoulder and said,“There goes Janine Zanobi ….”
Our respite was about to come to a screeching halt as gradually more and more members of the Class of ’85 had the same idea that we did. A little pre-reunion get together, before the main event. Gradually more and more of our classmates showed up. Jon Miller, Rob Kolton, Scott Dickler, Ron Braverman, Chuck Shames …. amazingly the faces came back to me very quickly, as did the memories of 25 years gone by.
We made our way over to the Reunion and it was more of the same. There was the occasional “Who’s that?” mixed in to keep the night interesting, but all things considered, I think the class of 1985 has fared pretty well since we departed dear old Lower Merion High School.
A couple of our classmates married each other which I found interesting and refreshing all at the same time. Some had the career they always wanted, some did not. Some had a house full of kids (Tony Smith!), some had little ones just like Dawn and I.
I was amazed as many of my classmates mentioned following my running and how running for Dom last year got them motivated in some way. Some started exercising. Some took up running for the first time. Some were training for half-marathons or full-marathons.
I had the greatest time talking “running” with Staci V. and Chris U. – I really hope we get a chance to run and race together some day.
I felt like Forrest Gump when he talks about how his running “inspired people” ….. I don’t know about that. But it was great to see so many people who had a passion for our sport, and they were taking advantage of their good health and the time that they could spend running, enjoying it as much as I do.
The one thing that I got asked about a lot was how often I “came home”.
“Do you get back home a lot?”
“When is the last time you were home?”
I realized that in a lot of ways I was “Home” for the first time in many years. It wasn’t the physical location as much as it was the people who were there sharing it with me.
“Home” was talking with Natalie Amoruso about hanging out with her, Bosch and our friend Dana, who unfortunately couldn’t make it to the reunion when we were kids. “Home” was talking with Chris Holland about Middle School Basketball Practice, when Chris had the smoothest baseline jump shot you’ve ever seen.
“Home” was laughing so hard at something that Bosch said that my abdominal muscles felt like I had just left the gym after a torturous core training session. It was just like old times, only better. We were done with all the B.S. that goes along with High School, at least I was.
I enjoyed catching up with everyone I could, knowing that I might not ever have the chance to do so again.
I got back to the airport at 12:30 a.m. and dropped off my rental car. A 3 1/2 hour “cat nap” was about all that I had time for before I made my way from the Airport Marriott over to terminal D and started my journey back to Austin.
Dawn and Landry were there to pick me up at 10:20 a.m. and we were on our way back “Home”. As we pulled up into the driveway to our house in Avery Ranch I thought to myself how great it felt to be back after a long week of travel.
I took it pretty easy during the day on Saturday, no training runs, strength training sessions, just a little rest and relaxation. As I was getting ready for bed I looked down at Dawn and Landry lying on the floor, nose to nose, dozing off for the night.
All I could think of was that I was “Home”.
Philly, Charleston, Columbia, Austin – it’s not a physical location that determines where “Home” is, it is the people in your life that you share it with.
Chalk up one more lesson to my Lower Merion High School education.
And I always thought I didn’t learn anything there.