I did it. We had the weekend available, I hadn’t done it before, my husband was kindly willing to accompany me, and I could tie in a visit to see my brother, so I thought why not.
I attended my 30th High School Reunion.
30 years. Dear God, how could that even be possible? Was it really that long ago? Could I really be that old now? A week ago I dug out my yearbook and browsed the pages, reliving some moments and refreshing my memory of some faces. At the time, I wondered how much we have all changed, would I recognize people, would it be awkward or fun?
I’m now happy to report that it was indeed fun. Perhaps a bit weird, but fun. Although we travel back to the general vicinity fairly regularly to visit family and friends, I haven’t really been back to my hometown to explore and roam around in years. So my husband and I arrived a bit early to do just that. My childhood home looked wonderful, I was thrilled to see the same family name on the mailbox to whom we had sold it to so long ago, and they have maintained it beautifully. Certain areas of town looked exactly the same, as if frozen in time, while other areas had greatly changed. We drove up one familiar hill to see not a big field, but a Vineyard. A Vineyard, really? Who knew? Many old homes along the lake have been replaced by high-end modern estates. Yet the High School looked much the same from the outside, the old gift shop still sold trademark gifts, and the parks and historic homes and Inns were all exactly as I remembered them.
From there we headed into one of the historic landmarks of town to step into the time-machine and go see my classmates. When I said it was a bit weird, I don’t mean that in a bad way, really. Besides a handful of friends I’ve stayed in contact with, the rest of the folks in the room I had literally not seen in 30 years. It was “weird” to see us all as middle-aged grown-ups. We tend to picture people in our heads the way we saw them last…in this case, as goofy 18-year olds. We laughed a bit about being “old”, but really everyone looked great. The women had changed the least – it was pretty easy to recognize each other. The men, however, I think had changed the most. Perhaps that is because, as my mom always said, boys take “longer to gel” into maturity. Or, more likely it is because there was a decided lack of hair on most of their heads. I was glad for name tags. Although it was nice to hear a couple of folks say to me “I knew it was you without even looking at your name tag.”
As expected, the groups/cliques are long gone. It was fun and somehow comforting that we all seem to be alike now. Sure, we’ve all had different life experiences over the past three decades, but we are now at similar points in our lives with much the same values. I have to say that I was surprised at myself, because I had unintentionally carried in with me a wariness, a bit of anxiousness, which completely disappeared after the first joyous hug with someone who was a childhood friend.
Later that evening after we left, and into the next morning, as I was replaying the experience in my head, I came to an interesting realization. Very little of the conversations I had with any of the group had to do with our careers or jobs. I can’t tell you what more than a handful of them do for a living. What I could tell you now, however, are which ones moved away, which ones stayed local or moved back over time, who is still a runner, who still loves to sail, the ages and stages of various children, who’s building a new house, who has traveled to Europe, who’s parents are still alive, where their siblings are, and who is still in touch with others that didn’t make it to the party. And of course, there were plenty of funny stories of the old days. But at this gathering, we were not identified by “what do you do?”. I believe that is because we never knew each other as adult professional working people. We knew each other as friends, students, cohorts….by our personalities, our interests – more who we were, not what we were. And that was immensely refreshing.
Of course, there was also the touch of harsh reality in remembering the few from our class who we have lost, taken from this life far too early. In the carefree days of high school, we have that youthful belief we’ll live forever and our friends will be with us until we are old and grey. Unfortunately, that is not always the case… so we are reminded that we need to treasure our memories and never take each other for granted.
As we traveled back to my current home, I can reflect and say that I’m glad that I attended the event. Will I see these folks again soon? Not likely. However, thanks to the miracles of social media, perhaps I’ll stay in touch better with a few after reconnecting. But more importantly, I feel good from having had a glimpse back into my past, spent some fun time with very Real people and have been inspired by the welcoming embraces of old friends.
So here is my Real Woman Tip of the day: Fear not Reunions. Allow yourself to experience them. You too may be pleasantly surprised.