In the beginning, “the group” was just us guys — Steve, Bob, Dave, Mike and me. We were college companions. Dorm buddies. Five fiery guys sharing “the college experience.”
In those days, you could live on about 150 bucks a week and your biggest concerns were retrieving your clothes from the dryer in the laundry room before someone else “reappropriated” them, getting from one side of campus to the other for that 9 a.m. class, and how in the world you were going to get your room cleaned up before parent’s weekend.
When we weren’t studying — and we studied a lot, honest — you could find the five of us playing hearts or double-deck euchre, strumming guitars and singing songs, or performing one of a number of harmless, practical jokes.
Every day at 4 p.m., you’d find us huddled around a TV set for Andy of Mayberry and Gomer Pyle, followed by our version of roller derby down four flights of stairs to the cafeteria for a dinner of mystery meat, potatoes and Jell-O.
After graduation, we all moved to various parts of the state, vowing to keep in touch. One by one, we all got married and the group became “the Ball State group.” We were carefree couples, able to take off on a whim and get together for football games, pool parties, weekend retreats and tennis. Soon, we began a tradition of sharing holiday weekends together, taking in movies, dining in or out, and Christmas gift exchanges.
There was guy and girl talk punctuated by conversation on the really important things in life — Ball State basketball and football.
In our group were bankers, teachers, homemakers and a lowly journalist. But despite the diversity in our careers and hometowns, our lives had many parallels. One by one, each couple escaped apartment living in favor of home ownership. One by one, each couple remodeled and furnished their homes and put a new car in the garage. And one by one, each couple had children.
The nature of our get-togethers changed considerably. We still got together for holidays and other occasions, but our weekenders became one-day affairs, dominated by entertaining the children and keeping them out of mischief.
Over the years, the dynamics of our group has changed as our children have grown up and struck out on their own. Still, we’ve remained a close-knit group, mourning the loss of parents, celebrating the engagements and weddings of our children, and heralding the births of grandchildren. And when we get together for homecoming or the holidays, we pick up the conversation where we left off at our previous gathering.
Robert Louis Stevenson is credited with saying, “A friend is a gift you give yourself.” As we enter the next chapter in our lives, I take comfort in knowing that our Ball State group is a gift that keeps on giving.
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