Whether or not we want to admit it, most of us love gushy, drawn-out goodbyes. Airports are filled with a steady stream of puffy-eyed boyfriends, girlfriends, parents and spouses—all frantically hugging their loved ones during teary-eyed farewells. Even the toughest among us have trouble resisting the sweet torture of seeing friends and family off on a long journey. Call it sentimentality, call it nostalgia or call it closure—whichever way you look at it, goodbyes give us some much-needed perspective. We tend to take our relationships for granted; we don’t make an effort to spend quality time with people because we know they’ll always be there. But faced with the impending departure of someone close to us, we suddenly realize that we’re running out of time.
So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye
My most traumatizing goodbye transpired about ten years ago when my close friend Vesna was leaving for Japan on a three-year teaching contract. At the time, it felt like she was going away forever. I had promised that I would meet her at the Departure terminal for a final send-off, but as it happened, I got to the airport late—too late to see her go. I ran through the large sliding doors, looked around and spotted her entire family outside the terminal. When her mother informed me that Vesna had already left, I was devastated—I had been cheated out of my final adieu. Bitter tears of disappointment streamed down my cheeks as a slow-mo montage of our friendship played over and over in my mind.
We’ll Always Have Paris
Literature and film are full of heart wrenching goodbyes. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman’s final farewell in the 1942 classic film Casablanca is a tragic yet beautiful testament to true love. However, the parting of true friends can be equally moving—think back to the last scene of E.T. Rarely does a cinematic farewell rival E.T. and Elliot’s final, tear-jerking goodbye. “I’ll be right here,” E.T. tells his best friend, placing a finger on Elliot’s forehead. And let’s not forget the famous hobbit Bilbo Baggins from J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic trilogy Lord of the Rings—he threw himself a goodbye party under the guise of a birthday celebration, and magically vanished in front of all his friends and relatives, never to be seen by the villagers again. Something these farewells remind us of is the painfully evident reality of someone’s departure—the sudden absence of a friend. The luxury of immediacy in the relationship is taken away, and we’re left with a void. So, while dramatic goodbyes can trumpet the special bonds of friendship, they wouldn’t be any fun if we didn’t have hellos to look forward to.
Hello…is it me you’re looking for?
A classic homecoming was Frank Sinatra's Welcome Home Party for Elvis Presley in 1960. It was a star-studded variety show starring Frank Sinatra, welcoming Elvis home after his U.S. Army tour of duty in Germany. Elvis performed in front of a live audience for the first time in two years. His devoted fans clung to his every word, shrieking passionately as he sang. The warm and fuzzy feelings seemed to be mutual—he was genuinely humbled by all the attention. I think that’s the kind of homecoming my friend and co-worker Kevin expected when he returned to Montreal after a year in Australia. But after his first week back at work, he found that people lacked the enthusiasm he had hoped for. So, as a joke he decided to throw himself a “Welcome Back Kevin” party—he bought himself a Duncan Hines Deep n’ Delicious chocolate cake, handpicked his own card (which I passed around the office for everyone to sign) put up a banner and distributed party hats. Our office-mates were a bit perplexed by his pro-active approach to his own homecoming festivities, but they went with it—after all, who can say no to Duncan Hines?
License to Ill
Goodbye and Homecoming parties offer yet another hidden benefit—the excuse to drink. What better reason could there be to drink ourselves into an oblivion than to give our friends a proper send-off or to welcome them back? It’s not that we Montrealers need a reason to consume copious amounts of alcohol, but it’s always fun to hit the town with a purpose. The best part is the 4:00 a.m. drunken poutine, which solidifies our final bonding moments in a whirlwind of deep-fried bliss.
Which brings me to a question that’s been on my mind. Where do we draw the line? Does someone who is going away for a week deserve a goodbye party? How about two weeks? I recently took a three-week trip to Italy. A few days before my departure, I told a friend over the phone that I wanted to see him before I left. He responded with this: “You know, we can always hang out when you get back. We’ve gone three weeks before without seeing each other.” He did have a point—three weeks isn't that long. Still, I wanted to feel that I’d be missed. After I hung up, my phone rang. I picked up to hear the voice of another friend. “Oh my God! You’re leaving in just two days!” she said emphatically. “I’ll miss you terribly!” I smiled. That’s more like it.