I graduated high school 20 years ago. It’s taken me quite a while to be able to say that without flinching, though I can’t seem to be able to tell you my age the same way without accidentally taking it down by a year or two and then stopping to do the math and correct myself. To say that time flies is an understatement, and I know it’s only going to fly faster as I age. I’m ok with that, actually. I’m not having a freak out about how old I am or what I’m doing (or not doing) with my life. Between you and me, there’s nothing quite like a high school reunion to make you feel pretty good about yourself in one way or another.
It began as it usually does: the friends who are still in touch with one another begin to chat about whether or not they’re going to go to the reunion, why or why not, who else might be going and hey, have you talked to so-and-so? Maybe if they go, I’ll go. For our 10th, I had no desire. I was living in the city and while I had a car, driving out to my hometown to spend $75 on a night with some girlfriends who I already kept in touch with felt like a huge waste. I was still single, I was working in an industry that I hated and was seriously considering returning to school for design, I didn’t have a ton of money to spend on fun, and I would be going alone. Then my girlfriends stepped in and the peer pressure began (nothing ever changes, really). Suddenly I found myself at my 10th reunion, talking to a few people I was happy to see, but mostly sitting with people I still saw regularly. I drank my fill of wine and went home $75 lighter and somewhat less impressed.
Forward another 10 years. Most, if not all of us, are on Facebook and keep in decent touch with the people we want to. We definitely don’t find ourselves in one room together ever, but if we need to talk to one of us, someone knows how to make that happen. It started somewhere around spring. “Are you going?” “I don’t know, are you?” “How much is this going to cost?” “Is this going to suck?” and then the pressure kicked in, money exchanged, commitments made. We were going. I let Dylan off the hook immediately. I couldn’t imagine anything worse than lugging someone along who didn’t love high school enough to get why anyone would want to relive it for a minute, who is younger than everyone else in the room, and who knows no one. He wouldn’t do that to me, and I wouldn’t do that to him. So I packed an outfit, we said our goodbyes, and I headed to mom’s for the weekend.
The night arrived and so did the nerves. My friend Sarah set up a meet-up beforehand for people who weren’t attending the actual reunion but had hoped to see some familiar faces. That turned into a launchpad for the hellos (and the social lubrication, thank goodness) and before long, we piled over to the event space. A poor combination of heat, a raging outdoor firepit (in August), lack of proper ventilation, and a stiff breeze, sent us onto the outdoor portion of the space and into the direct line of woodsmoke, for which we would all suffer greatly the following two days. The pressure of names descended as we bailed each other out when one of us found ourselves hugging a familiar face but no idea the name, and sometimes not even all that familiar a face. As the night wore on, friendships that felt every ounce of their forgotten 20 years picked up where they left off, cackles we hadn’t heard since second period Commons echoed across the bocce courts, crushes, mistakes, arguments, all the things that made high school what it was, populated the space along with the bodies who were slightly worse for wear. Eventually and predictably, little groups formed, comprised of the same exact people who were in them 20 years prior. Amazing. Everything was rolling along splendidly until the end “thanks for coming” megaphone moment, when our well-meaning class president tried to lead the group in the old Senior chant of our class year, failed miserably.
As the photos began to emerge the next day, it became clear that some fared better than others. We spanned the same 12 months’ age
differences only, but we were all over the place when it came to our life experiences to that point. Many were married with young kids, some were divorced with grown ones, some were still unmarried and secretly wondering if we missed our boats somehow, and then there were the unfortunate spouses dragged into the mix that knew no one but other hangers-on. Poor things. There was even a two-time grandma among us (that makes us sound horribly old but she started early and so did her daughter). We closed the reserved space, then closed the bar, then went back to the bar we began the evening in -high five! – because we’re champs. At the last stop, I found out my junior high crush had a crush on ME during high school thanks to a long conversation with said former crush, witnessed by his best friend who then ratted him out to me after the former crush left. I have to admit, that was a highlight. That, and not showing up 50 pounds heavier than I was during our 10th.
There were many moments I caught myself giggling like I was 18 again. There was something in the air that we embraced, and it certainly wasn’t our ages or stations in life. For that one evening, everyone was back in high school but with the much-desired knowledge of things we wish we’d known then. Yes, there was talk of kids and introductions of spouses, but there were also fantastic re-connections and squashed age-old beefs. My friend Amy even told me she always thought I was one of the cool kids and was even a little intimidated by me back then, and idea that floors me because I didn’t run with a set group, I thought I was a huge art dork and can’t imagine intimidating anyone, ever, and told her as much. We clinked glasses on it and had a laugh. The playing fields were far more level at the 20th than the 10th. It was completely worth it, even though I spent more than I should have and probably had a few extra drinks than I should have as well. A week later, I have something like, 15 more Facebook friends than I did going into it and there is of course the afterglow conversation of getting together again long before our 25th. I doubt this will happen, we may well have captured lightning in a bottle that night. And if that’s the case, good. I don’t need to go to my 30th, maybe not even my 25th. My mom has never missed one in her many years since graduation, she even helps plan them. There comes a time I’m sure, when it gets depressing. Numbers dwindle, kids grow up and are less a source of conversation, marriages end, there’s simply less to catch up on. I’d rather leave it where it was because where it was that night, is better than pretty much where it ever was at any point in high school.