Danish Exchange Students 1989

We were 16 years old when we first met. We were Rotary exchange students in Bjerringbro, Denmark. Three of us, Shawn, Greg, and I, traveled from the midwest to Denmark, and attended the same school together for a year. It was a whole new world for all of us. New people, new language, new experiences. And then…life goes on.

After 24 years, we finally reunite…well, at least TWO of the three of us got together! WOW, that really puts things into perspective for me. I was SO naive when I went to live on my own, in a foreign country! And these were my brothers-in-trouble…not to mention all the things we did to GET to the trouble part! We experienced some of ourfirsts in this strange, new land that we set out to discover. It was a country unlike our own. We could do things here, that we would never come to experience at our ages, in the U.S! We grew together, laughed together, and as one of them mentioned to me today…”hung out in high school cafeterias in dark corners…sleeping senselessly on cement floors, on shoulders, and between train stops. We were travelers together, friends ‘from the homeland’ for one another. We were warm, welcoming shoulders to cry on when we wanted to turn and run from the unknown and back into the arms of our homeland. We talked one another OUT of things, as well as mocked each other into doing the ‘unmentionables!’ We ventured into the unknowns together…we were the THREE MUSKETEERS! And we never forgot one another…

TWENTY FOUR years later…Shawn and I had the opportunity to catch up…and take in a baseball game. The old, summer nostalgia of a ballgame, under the lights of an open-air ball field  and plastic cups of cheap, keg beer. And since we happened to be in Willmar, MN, home of the Willmar ‘Stingers’…the beer was green….NOPE, I don’t get it either…?? But the beer was green. Yes, green.

Now meeting after so long, it is a bit nerve wracking to try and GUESS at what your old friends will look like. So it is a good thing that Facebook exists, to see the age progression and have some sort of initial meeting recognition. After so many years, I also had to privilege of meeting my good friend’s significant other, as well!

It is surreal to know that we were friends as teens. And now, as adults, we come together again to recollect, to laugh, and even get a few beers. It was great to relive the funny times, and fill in the questionable memories with our own interpretations of the past. It was a fleeting moment of our teen years, coming to life for a brief moment, and walking through time since we last met. It was great to hear stories of their children being younger…and the trials that each child puts parents through! I did it to my parents, and I’m sure mine will do the same, and, like my friends from Wisconsin; they have already been through it. Their children are now older and made those mistakes already.

I think to myself, “If only our children knew what WE were up to at that age! PHEW, glad I’m not my OWN parents!” I’m not sure how they survived my teens. Frankly, I’m not sure how I survived my teens!

Even though we are now grown adults and have chosen paths to very different places in our lives, it is comforting to know that even after so many long years, it is still possible to reunite and instantly be sixteen all over again. Well, maybe not that drastic…since I would never want to go back to my teen years! I did that once, I don’t want to go there again.

It is so good for the mind and the body to be able to recollect, remember, and tie up loose memories. It is good to know that not every one of the exchange students really remembers one another…I thought it was just me! It was wonderful getting to know the special woman, (Mary,) that my friend Shawn chose to share his life with. I was especially enamored with the greatness and zest that Mary has for life. She is genuine, fun-loving, and adventurous! It was so great to see that my friend is happy, and living life in a great way. They really are made for one another and seem to be the ‘topping’ on each other’s proverbial “cake,” if you will.

Even with the short time we had to reconnect, it had to come to an abrupt end. As we all have agendas and places to be. Happy Chef, and the Big Ball of Twine in Darwin, MN. were on the bucket list of childhood attractions that had to be visited by Shawn and Mary, on their trip back to Wisconsin.
We actually got lucky the next morning and were able to meet one more time and share a pot of coffee after a night at the ball park. It was icing on the cake, being able to catch up in a less hectic surrounding. Even with the nastalgia of ‘growing older,’ I realized that nobody really changes. They just become more of what they were in their early lives. Same people, different outlook, more mature? Well…maybe we shouldn’t go that far!
The baseball game was a great way to spend a summer evening, and we got to top it all off with a beautiful summer morning, cup of Joe! SKOAL!

“Here is to 24 more!”

24 years later!