So I had my 30th high school reunion last weekend. I’ve been kind of trying to process it this entire week and figure out why everything about it surprised me so much.
Let me count the ways…
Surprise 1: That 30 years have passed at all. 30 YEARS! I mean, I know I have a 21-year-old, but still, 30 years just doesn’t sound right. (Is that right? Hmmm. … Maybe we should recalculate. 1984 … uh, oh yeah … I guess that’s right. Dang…)
Surprise 2: That we needed nametags already. Maybe it’s because I’m still in denial that 30 years have passed, but I thought there might be one or two people I didn’t recognize. But no. There was a roomful of people I didn’t recognize. Thirty years is a long time. And I wasn’t the only one who had this problem. For the entire first hour, we were all whispering to each other, “Who’s that?” Then, when we’d hear the name, we’d say, “Ohhhhhh!” and go over and say hello. Generally, the guys were less recognizable than the gals. But a tip for anyone else going to a 30-year reunion: Suggest nametags! It’s not too early.
Surprise 3: That my hubby had a good time. Superman and I were in the same graduating class, so he was in this boat with me. But, unlike me, he had no desire to go to any high school reunion whatsoever. I wasn’t going to make him go, but all on his own one night a few weeks ago he said, OKAY, I’ll GO. (As if I had even brought it up right then.) So he came along, kind of dragging his feet. But he ended up having fun. He ran into folks he’d almost forgotten about, but had fun remembering random escapades with them, whether in football, band, after school, or whatever. When we left, he held my hand and looked at me sideways and said, “Don’t say ‘I told you so’.” So I didn’t. But I smiled.
Surprise 4: Most everyone was pleasantly past the judgy-phase. Not everyone, mind you. But most. I imagine this is where reunions start to get interesting. Everyone is moving into their 50s soon here. Almost everyone is reaching for their reader glasses. More than 70% of the class now has probably suffered real life and loss – some health problems, some deaths in the family, some job loss, some marriages failed, some financial setbacks. We’ve lost a couple of classmates by now. Some have lost parents or siblings that the rest of us knew. Some have had cancer and beat it. Someone’s lost a child. Many have divorced, married again, sometimes divorced again. Many are on their second or third career attempts by now. Everyone is starting to “get it” – we’re not here to judge. We’re here to embrace, say hello, have a drink, and pat the back of someone who’s been there, too.
Surprise 5: I always enjoy talking to the person I least expect. This is my second class reunion, and what I remembered most about the first one is that the conversations I most enjoyed, and most remembered afterward, were with people I didn’t even expect to see, and in some cases people I didn’t even know very well in high school. People interest me in general – it must be the writer in me – but at both reunions I tried to steer away from my closest friends (whom I still see regularly anyway) and strike up conversations with folks I knew but didn’t hang out with necessarily. And I found them all so interesting. Somehow, having new, adult shared experiences overlaid onto our shared past (growing up in the same era, in the same neighborhood, at the same school, with the same kids and teachers) makes an even cooler connection. It’s like you can understand the adult experiences better because you knew and shared the teenage experiences. And maybe there’s an assumptive trust there that you don’t really get with just any ol’ person you meet as an adult. And some of these folks were kids I went to elementary school with, too, so the shared experiences just multiply. It felt like touching a little bit of a cornerstone.
Surprise 6: I guess we sometimes need to touch the cornerstone. … The people who wanted to go and went had a good time. The people who didn’t want to go but went anyway had a good time. The people who couldn’t go seemed to realize they’d missed a good time. No one seemed to regret going.
Maybe — despite everyone’s nervousness, vacillating, and uncertainty — we all just need to make these connections every so often.
Maybe there’s something important about touching that cornerstone.