As I was putting the finishing touches on my plans for New Orleans and the International Pool|Spa|Patio Expo, one of the people I was trying to set up a breakfast with asked me how many of these shows I’d attended through the years.
“Hundreds,” I said, without giving it much thought.
Attending shows is, after all, one of the main duties associated with trade publishing, and after 33 years in the business and averaging (conservatively) about six events a year, I’m thinking my top-of-the-head guess was actually on target.
“So how many of those,” he asked, “have been national pool shows?” I wrinkled my brow, did a little math, subtracted a couple years in the late 1990s when I was away from the water and came up with a number that startled me.
“This will be my 24th,” I said, scrambling to think of other things of that duration in my life: 30 years of marriage; children aged 27, 24 and 21; 23 years in my current house; a few nice bottles of wine I set aside more than 20 years ago – not a vast number of people, places and things springing immediately to mind.
But as the day went on, I thought of so much more. My mind’s eye flashed across the faces of acquaintances collected through those long years, including some very good and dear friends. But I also thought about countless nodding acquaintances – you know, the familiar faces you see on the show floor and nowhere else for the rest of the year? Some of those connections reach all the way back to 1986; collectively, I know they’ll prop me up when it comes time to pack my bags.
As for the show itself, I wouldn’t say that I’m exactly nostalgic about it. I won’t dismiss it with “been there, done that,” however, because I invariably walk away from the hall having absorbed something productive or amusing or even inspirational. And I must say that I enjoy seeing people face to face: It makes it easier to visualize them as we chat on the phone or exchange e-mails.
My 91-year-old mother tells me that it’s much more important to be sentimental about people than it is about places or things. You can move on from a place, never go back and still take comfort, she says, because the friends you made will still be there, still be your friends, even if you never see them again. With things, moving on is even easier.
I don’t have quite her perspective yet, but I must say I’m leaning a bit more in that direction with each passing day. So please do stoke my collection of memories: Stop by the WaterShapes booth at the Expo in New Orleans– #3045, our usual spot across the aisle from the Genesis 3 pavilion. It’ll be good to see you!