What a strange experience, that high school reunion.
As I’ve already said, I’m glad I made the effort to attend. I was on the fence about it well after I went through the airport and boarded the plane. But once there I knew almost immediately that I’d made the right decision. I only wish I’d had (we’d had) more time, and that more of my classmates had attended.
I needed more time, because I wanted to say hello to everybody, but it just wasn’t possible.
I spoke to folks I’d known fairly well (once upon a time) and folks I’d barely known at all. I was delighted by some of the folks who remembered me, surprised by how many faces I recognized (even if the corresponding names didn’t spring to mind immediately), and fascinated to see how life had taken this group of people into so many unpredictable directions. I reconnected with old friends and caught up on their lives. I couldn’t get enough of seeing how people had turned out. People I’d known well and people I knew as barely more than a familiar face that shared a high school, middle school, elementary school.
I also needed more time to process memories, and for the memories to come trickling back. More time to ask questions, more time to reminisce. More time to say, “Do you remember when?” and, “I remember the time we…” and, “I’ve always felt badly about…” and, “Do you know if it’s true that…” and, “I always wondered…” and, “What really happened that time…” and, “I didn’t know that.” More time to say, “I misunderstood the person you were in high school, and in that I did you a disservice. Here we stand as adults, and by seeing who you are now, I better understand who you were then.” Time for us all to share in the collective understanding bought on by the passage of time: a tacit acknowledgment that we all thought we had the world figured out back then, though none of us did. To acknowledge that we were no different from any other 18 year olds.
I wish more of my classmates had attended, because I wanted to say hello to everybody, but it just wasn’t possible.
As much as I enjoyed the reunion (and the way old memories kept trickling back, triggered by laughter and conversation and surprising revelation), there were terrible holes in this retroactive narrative of high school. No contributions from Brett, or Dale, or Kathy, or Jesse, or Tom, or Jason, or Ryan, or Eric, or Curt, or Thanh, or Ann. I missed them terribly. These people carry a part of my past.
I don’t miss the person I was back then. But our pasts make us the people we are today. By reconnecting with bits and pieces of my past, I remember not just who I was back then, but who I have become, and who I continue to become. I don’t yearn for those days, but I do yearn for a simpler life. Things were so much easier back then, although, of course, we didn’t know it, because our worlds were so small. But we grew up. We grew into the world.