You can put it on the board … No!

Summer 2016 is officially on the other side of the fence, and no one—not even Hawk Harrelson—would say “Yes!” to that.

Labor Day is over, and the beautiful weather we enjoyed last weekend added just a tinge of despair to a great holiday. Every year as I prepare for the “Monday” after the last day off of summer, I do a double take in the realization that Thanksgiving will arrive in about two weeks.

However, after attending a small gathering of high school friends from my old neighborhood, I was rubber-necking at more than the change of seasons; I was looking back at nearly 40 years of life.

We gathered at a small bar and shared hugs, laughter and memories. For more than one person, the guests were reunited with first loves, teammates and best buds.

It didn’t matter that it had been at least 30 years since I’d seen many of them; their faces were instantly recognized, and the conversation was eager and delightful. Many had come in from out of state just to be there, which was totally awesome.

My friends now have jobs that include the GM of a TV station, a dermatologist, military veterans, a fire chief, a teacher, a computer whiz, a banker, a nurse, a lawyer, and a mother and father who raised a set of triplets and a set of twins. When I consider what my friends have achieved, I think back to sitting at a classroom desk in fifth grade and not believing whatever adult it was telling us that one day we’d be doctors and lawyers and such.

Some of my classmates are now grandparents, and they all have beautiful families. My beautiful family can take their time bringing me grandkids; but I do delight in the joy that my friends receive from their grandkids, and I look forward to my own.

One thing we all have in common now is the aches and pains of getting older. Little annoyances like creaky shoulders, knees, hips, ankles and wrists remind my friends and me that the ’70s are a bygone era, and 70 is now a number that reflects the age we will be in about 15 years—God willin’ and the creek don’t rise.

Sadly, serious illness is now a part of my generation. One of our friends is so sick that he couldn’t join us for our celebration; but he was there in spirit, and we shared stories and laughs recounting the memories of his friendship. I know there were many silent prayers behind the expressions of hope for his speedy recovery.

Back in the day, a gathering of this magnitude would have probably continued until the wee hours, but around 11 or so, folks started making their way home. Us big kids get tired early, but we have lots of fun in a shorter period of time than we used to because of our years of experience … so we got that going for us.

Just like back in the Eastridge days, we had a blast at the reunion and still had smiles on our faces the next morning, even after shaking our heads over how fast life goes by.

This is the first year in more than 20 years that I don’t have a child in school. Two live on their own, and one lives with me as she gets going in the work world and follows the example of success that her brother and sister have set so far.

Many of my friends are proud members of the empty-nester demographic, and I’m almost there. With no kids in school, I now have an urge to tell a classroom full of fifth-graders that, someday, they’ll be doctors and lawyers and such.

My dear friend from down the street on Wildwood in Kankakee celebrated with her husband their first Labor Day as empty-nesters by organizing the reunion. At the party, I teased her by, once again, imitating the way her mother would call her home years and years ago as we neighborhood kids played outside.

I’m so grateful to her—as everyone at the party is—for putting in the time and effort to throw the party, complete with munchies!

On Labor Day, a beautiful, blue September sky was filled with wispy clouds that passed over the golf course that is essentially my second home. My friends from high school aren’t there, but I’m lucky to have many longtime friends there who are filling my later decades with many great memories.

Like wispy clouds, the days of summer are fleeting, but will the great memories that my friends have given me last forever?

Yes!