That time we met


More than twenty years ago, a strange event took place in Pennsylvania. (WellÖ not strange. Actually, it was fun.)

Terry, Justin and I were headed to Hersheypark. More specifically (and, I suppose, actually less specifically), we were on vacation in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

My sister, Kerri, and her husband, Nick, were driving around the United States. The deeper background to their story involved a new job, an international move, and having several weeks before they were going to head off. So, for a bit of the summer, they had decided to hop in a car and tour America.

We had made plans to meet in Hershey. And, we did.

The fancy part of the story in retrospect is that we did actually get together. No apps. No GPS. No cell phones. We didnít text or e-mail to coordinate anything. Driving was based on having a road atlas and several maps. We simply talked a month or two in advance, set a date, made our hotel reservations, and met in Hershey.

The mind wandering part of the story is that we did in fact meet. In Pennsylvania. And, today, I find myself thinking about some of the travels I have enjoyed, including the planned and unplanned encounters along the way.

Consider the people in your life. Family. Friends. Co-workers and such. You get used to seeing them in certain places, and perhaps even at certain times. When you meet up with them, unplanned and unexpected, it can be funny and strange.

(Side note Ė I love considering this subject with teachers. Almost without exception, every teacher has great stories about meeting students in grocery stores, parks, movie theaters and more. Itís as if their students have difficulties connecting the dots that a teacher would be any place other than a school.)

Over the years, Iíve had many moments such as the meeting in Hershey. Some planned. Some not. And often, especially when unexpected, they amaze me.

Friends picking you up at an airport, perhaps thousands of miles from where your relationship began. Heading out on vacation, and finding yourself greeting a classmate you havenít seen in decades. Walking into a business, looking for some type of service or product, and finding that the owner of the shop is a neighbor.

The journey may or may not be over great distances. Itís the surprise connection, or the extension of shared experiences. Itís the swirling checklists in your head.

For instanceÖ our family enjoys dining at restaurants with hibachi grills. I know for a fact that the four of us have eaten at such places in at least six different states. Actually, weíve eaten at such places in two different countries.

For instanceÖ later this year, Terry and I will be off on a trip that involves going to a city she has never visited previously. While weíre there, I think we will be eating in a restaurant that my father and I were in together some ten years ago.

Itís not simply the memories. Itís that statistical coincidence, with one foot in strange-things-happen-land and the other in never-would-have-expected-this.

This essay has been a bit of a winding road. And, I think itís reached a destination. A strange journey to get here. (And hopefully not the last time weíll meet.)


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