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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.


December 19, 2018

Life is full of reunions.

There is something deep inside of me that is hard-wired for any type of reunion— family, school, old friends— I don’t need an excuse, just a date and time of where to show up. I was built for reunions.

My dictionary gives three definitions of reunion: “1.) an instance of two or more people coming together again after a period of separation 2.) A social gathering attended by members of a certain group of people who have not seen each other for some time 3.) The act or process of being brought together again as a unified whole.” I can’t see a dime’s bit of difference between any of those definitions, but they all lead to one final conclusion— being reunited with people in some type of fellowship.

Family reunions are one of the main types of reuniting. Though, to my knowledge, my family has never held a reunion. That, or maybe I just wasn’t invited (and there is a short window in my misspent youth where that might have been the case). It’s sad, really. My grandfather, Thomas St. John, had seven brothers. I should have dozens of first, second, and third St. John cousins twice removed (Author’s note: I have never known what makes one “twice removed,” but it sounded official, and I am positive that I should have some twice-removed kin, so I’m leaving it).

Unfortunately, just two generations after those seven St. John brothers came into the world, there was only my brother and me to carry on the name. Sadly, the only form of family-related reunion I have known is at funerals.

High school reunions are definitely in my wheelhouse. I could attend a reunion of my high school classmates once a month and never get bored. The problem with that scenario is that I went to a small private school, with small graduating classes, that has now been closed for almost 40 years. There were around 32 people in my entire graduating class. I’m not knocking it. I loved my school. The friendships I made have lasted a lifetime. During those years I had a blast and have nothing but the fondest memories of my first twelve years in school.

My school was so small that when we hold reunions— and there is one coming up on Friday, December 28th— we hold it for all of the classes that attended the entire school. Actually, I like that. The school was so small, I knew all of the kids in the classes four years older than me, and those who were four years younger.

Friendships always have been— and always will be— extremely important to me. There is a different bond with the friendships we make early in life. I have never figured out what it is exactly, though I think we probably spend more time together as children and teenagers, and therefore have more opportunities to bond, especially at an age where everyone around is still trying to figure out how the world works.

Yesterday, I experienced a new type of reunion. It’s one that I never would have expected, but a get-together that I thoroughly enjoyed.

A few years ago, my friend, collaborator, and business partner, Wyatt Waters, and I began leading tours of Italy with groups of 25 people. Over the past two years we have led over 225 people on nine trips to Tuscany and Northern Italy. Over the next 12 months we will lead another seven groups of 25 people through our favorite spots in Tuscany, and later in the year to Rome and the Amalfi Coast. Each of those trips has been unique and special to us. As I have stated many times, one of the greatest fringe benefits of becoming accidental tour leaders are the new friendships Waters and I have made. It’s something that we never expected, but something we truly treasure.

Next to my faith and my family, friendships are one of the things that I treasure most in life. That is what made yesterday’s reunion so special. The very first group Waters and I ever hosted in Tuscany hosted a homecoming brunch of sorts in our restaurant, The Purple Parrot.

I think it is so cool that a disparate collection of people from all walks of life have stayed in touch and remained friends. So much so that they took an entire day to reunite.

People drove from Florida, Louisiana, and Central Mississippi— based on one week that they spent together two years ago— to spend a couple of hours together reuniting through a common bond that they shared in another country 5,000 miles away.

Towards the end of the meal, one member of the group— a well-travelled, retired attorney— pulled me aside and said, “I have travelled a lot, and I don’t like to rank my trips. But if I had to, this was the best one.” There is a certain type of bond that occurs on these trips. I haven’t been doing it long enough to figure it out yet, but it is special and unique. Our guests connect with each other in a unique way, and we connect with them.

The older I get, then more I value friendships. They are a key component in my Five Fs philosophy. For the past 20 years I have maintained that the things that mean the most in life— the aspects of daily life that give it true meaning— are (in order) faith, family, friends, food, and fun. The beauty of that ranking is that if the first four (faith, family, friends, and food) exist all at once in a place or setting, the fun happens automatically.

Maybe it’s the Five Fs that bond people together on these trips. There are certainly bountiful amounts of each in place during each tour. Either way, I look forward to many more trips and reunions (of all types) to come.


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