Robert Garelick attends a reunion of his North London BBYO mates -- 30 years on.

BBYO Reunion — London Style

High school reunions are a new phenomenon in the UK. (My school reunion might need to take place in a penitentiary). Recently, while preparing to visit the UK, I received an email that a small casual reunion was occurring. We had a big one last year I missed due to distance. As Head Boy (you Harry Potter fans know what I mean — others get your minds out of the gutter) surely, I had to go. However, I knew immediately I had a clash. The conflicting culprit was none other than BBYO.

I had been a founding member of my local BBYO chapter in North London in AD 1976 and on National Executive Committee in 1979/80. I am still very close with some of my co-founders as well as a smattering of people in other chapters. Whenever I visit London, my good friend Paul always arranges a dinner with twenty or so BBYOers to herald my triumphant return to blighty (see Wilfred Owen for that reference). So, what was it to be? Head Boy duty or BBYO duty?

As I travel a lot for work, I had to evaluate the long-term ramifications and I suppose, what meant more to me. I had recently met with an old BBYO friend in Philly and last year with others in Hong Kong and Australia. I am in contact with some old school friends, but the closest were also BBYO people. In Hong Kong, I had a wonderful time, with my Northern regional counterpart. (District 15 is split south , wohoo! And North boo!) Just as it was in Philly and Sydney and Rio, I slipped easily back into conversations about the old days; people we knew, world events, politics etc. I thought for a very short time (my usual MO), and decided to forgo school for BBYO.

So, on a cold January Sunday night, I sat in a loud North West London Restaurant. I realized after a short period that we were the loud ones. We were enjoying my old BBYO friends and memories. As people entered, we all hugged and kissed (even though some of these people see one and other regularly) and slapped backs and laughed. We reverted to sophomoric humor very quickly. Reminiscing is fun, laughing is better. However, the best part is the common bond and the memories of conventions and Israel trips and shared experiences.

Yes, one guy might be a famous financier in London, but we know him as the guy who singed his 70s hair on the candles during chapter installation. Or the fashion diva that wore a Doctor Who scarf year round as a 14 year old has certainly been often teased about her teenage attire. We have that level of trust and comfort which can’t be explained, but you know it and love it when you see it.

So I made the right choice, my BBYO reunion evening was a delight and when I left BBYO during the Carter administration that was not the end of the road. Carter was merely the US President. I was runner up for national BBYO president District 15 1979 and my friends remind me of that fact often (the runner up part) and when I see the sparkle in their eyes when they are doing so I could not be happier.

About Robert Garelick

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