My Largest Experience of Small So Far

I realized this weekend that small is relative, and that in the scheme of things, one weekend out of an entire lifetime is indeed small. Last Saturday and Sunday, five members of my Brownie Troop reunited. We hadn’t seen each other in many decades. Some of us were eight years old when we were last together. While the genesis of this reunion makes an interesting story, it’s not particularly relevant here. What matters is that we decided to come together for a weekend, and that none of us knew what to expect, either from each other or from the group.

I was the only participant from out of town; the others still live in and around our hometown, the furthest in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. When I agreed to participate, I understood the stakes of my adventure. My childhood was unhappy. I think of my young self as depressed, repressed—oh, just admit it, pathetic–and it’s always been difficult—if not impossible—for me to imagine my elementary school self as a full human being with an aura others could perceive and appreciate. If the reunion provided the medicine I hoped it would, perhaps I could establish a new, more positive and robust foundation for myself. If this miracle didn’t take place, I was pretty sure I’d have a good time visiting my hometown.

The five of us—plus a dear man with whom I had won a seventh-grade dance contest, practicing in his rec room for months before the dance, spent last Saturday visiting our old neighborhood in Havertown, walking the streets together, gazing at the house each of us once lived in, reminiscing. We shared joyful memories and painful realizations. We revealed the realities of life behind closed doors, some of them loving, others disturbing. I took comfort in learning I wasn’t the only one of us whose mother had not been kind to her, or whose father often displayed a fierce temper.

Sunday we gathered at the Philadelphia Flower Show, and strolled around appreciating and critiquing the displays. Every once in a while a pair or trio of us would find ourselves discussing an intimate issue—marriages that ended in divorce, the joys and possibilities of grandparenting, our self-image—and would discover that we’d momentarily lost the group. Never for long, though. The show this year is better than ever, particularly because a re-allocation of display space makes for more open viewing than in the past.

At lunchtime, we headed to the Redding Market, a bustling, European-style market, offering fresh food and eateries galore, where the five of us we settled into a deli booth, and continued reminiscing, sharing our lives, and exclaiming about how lucky we were: the weekend was more than a success, it was a triumph. Not only did we all get along and enjoy each other, we appreciated and respected each other. We had so deeply bonded, that a group of five very mature women who hadn’t seen each other in decades, no longer formed a they. We were now a solid we.

More than a new foundation, last weekend I acquired a new family of origin. The five of us, each different from all the others and unique in her own way, shared the most essential qualities: we are all smart, engaged, active, passionate women, who read extensively, think deeply and reflect carefully. And we all enjoy having fun. But even more important, we are all warm and open hearted, communicating love and acceptance that transcends years and distance, and will continue flowing among us for as long as we are each alive on this sweet earth.

Two days out of an entire lifetime, and I replaced all my sad memories with joyful moments! My reunion weekend embodies small at its most powerful.

Berkeley Gate

3 thoughts on “My Largest Experience of Small So Far”

  • So glad this was so good! And thank you for sharing it so eloquently with the rest of us.

  • Hey, I know one of those Brownie Scouts – and have known her far more than small for 53 +3 years. From what I’ve heard of those two days there had to be a Harry Potter sorcerer working some sort of magic for this group of five plus the dancer. I do not know the others but after reading this “Large Small” , and wiping a small tear from my eye, I know, without a trace of doubt, that each of you are – in the words of a very insightful writer -” warm and open hearted communicating love and acceptance” . Oh and by the way, for the unlearned, Philly kids WERE the best dancers, after all it was the home of American Bandstand.

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