Reunions offer a particular kind of joy: the past and present converge, and the resulting emotions are layered and complex.

I recently attended a high school reunion, and during the same trip I made a visit to my former office. I was also able to spend hours of time in long conversations with several of my oldest and closest friends.

I doubt a stay at the most exclusive spa would have been more reviving. I came home with a reserve of energy and optimism that I can still tap.

Today I am anticipating another reunion, but not for me.

My literacy student, B.R., had a Big Brother when he was a kid. I’ve heard many stories about the time they spent together. Jim, the Big Brother, took B.R. places he’d never been, and exposed him to music he’d never heard. B.R. was exposed to a broader world than he had imagined. He told me about his gratitude, and his wish to look his Big Brother up someday, just to see how he was doing. The last time B.R. mentioned Jim was  Monday night, as we were wrapping up our lesson.

At home that night, on a whim, I got to Googling. I had a name and an occupation to work with.

In a few minutes, I found someone who could very well be THE Jim, and an email address.

It took less time to find him than to compose a message and decide whether to send it. I knew how B.R. would feel about a reunion, but what about his former Big Brother? The internet offers a wonderful but creepy capacity to find people who may have very good reasons not to want to be found by a particular searcher.

I wrote a brief note, explaining how I knew B.R., and saying that if he was the right person, and wanted to be in contact, I could convey a message to B.R.  If he was the right person, but did not want contact, I just wanted him to know that B.R. remembered him with affection and gratitude. Then I went to bed.

Yesterday morning, I had a response. I’ve been smiling ever since. Yes, Jim said. Although he lives half a world away right now, he’ll be home this summer and would love to see B.R. In the meantime, we’ve arranged for me to show B.R. a video message tonight when he and I meet for our regular lesson. Jim also sent a link to a photo sharing site, where he has uploaded pictures from their time together, so many years ago.

I’m saving the video for B.R., but I peeked at the photos. There was my student in a picture dated 1981. There were several shots of him with the same serious, sad face I recognized, but several more with B.R. grinning like I know he can. The past and present converged, reminding me of the time between, and the violence and hardship B.R. had known before we met.

Somewhere between the smiling kid at the beach, fishing and learning to appreciate the Beatles, and the smiling man at the literacy center, reading and learning to overcome his fear of writing and spelling tests, there was a time that is not mine to share, so different from B.R.’s childhood fun and the present.

The sweetness in the photographs. The bitter awareness that B.R.’s happy innocent enjoyment would morph into something else entirely. The incongruence of his early adulthood to the person I know now. The cheerful thrill I feel at surprising B.R. tonight. Of course I wanted to cry, but were they happy tears or sad?

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