The Internet and Facebook have in some ways done away with the need for yearly reunions. People are in touch with those whom they choose to be and can contact old classmates on a whim. Princeton Reunions does not seem to be affected by the shrinkage of the world as over 20,000 people are participating this year. Reunions have come to mean more than the title implies. There is more that goes on over these three days that Facebook and the Internet could never replace or replicate.
Princeton’s school spirit is not evidenced by the attendance at sporting events during undergraduate years; stadiums are mostly empty during the academic school year. The Tiger fan base comes out to fill courtyards and tents after the academic year has concluded.
In a strange way, Reunions marks the fact that we become more proud and spirited Princetonians on the way out of the FitzRandolph Gate than on the way in. Once we are off into the world of work there builds a sense of eternal pride and belonging. The four years of a Princeton student’s undergraduate experience are the time when that student earns her stripes in order to go out and be a Tiger and eventually participate in Reunions.
Reunions seem to be about creating a space in which people are connected to their youth, their nostalgic idealized glory days. It is additionally, and in conjunction, about connecting all Tigers together. The recently graduated meet their predecessors, and the old-timers see their legacies live on. There is a continuity created and maintained by Reunions that turns alumni into family members. As a family that exists in perpetuity, there necessarily has to be a children element. The young kids in our midst make up an interesting demographic that is often overlooked in the Reunions festivities but which is included in creating the unique Reunions space.
It may be difficult for me to fully understand and explain what makes Reunions unique, but it is very clear to the young folk among us. According to 7-year-old Hannah Baskin when asked what happens at Reunions: “Grown ups here like to talk to old friends from college. They continue to talk until they fall onto the ground like wheew!” As far as the youngsters are concerned the Reunions weekend is about food, parades, fireworks, arts, crafts and the parents doing lots of talking. For Haley (7 and three fourths), Tess (5) and Jackson (3) Hubbard from Los Angeles, Calif.: “[Our parents] like to hang out with their friends, and we go through the whole night dancing.” All three shared the hope that they too would be allowed to stay up late and dance with their parents. For those that may not understand the denotative meaning of Reunions, they understand empirically what the active components of Reunions are.
What Princeton Reunions have, that Facebook can never take a way or make obsolete, is the element of all-inclusiveness — grandparents, students and grandchildren all having fun simultaneously. There is a family narrative that is created whereby the smallest of children are inculcated into a whole world of tradition and positive association. They in turn grow up understanding what it means to be a Tiger, some among them will partake in the Princeton undergraduate experience, where they become official members, and then they remain in the fold returning every year, bringing their children.