Tuesday, June 10, 2014

30 years after graduation

It seems to me there are people who love attending high school reunions and people who wouldn’t dream of attending a high school reunion, and I know plenty of each.

I fall into the first group, although maybe not with quite so much fervent enthusiasm as some people do. I just always find high school reunions fun, and my 30th, this past weekend, was no exception. Despite what you see in movies like “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion,” no one actually goes to a reunion to be mean or snarky or exclusive. That makes for good Hollywood, but it doesn’t really happen that way. People go to reunions specifically because they want to re-unite. Simply being together is the main thing that happens at reunions.

True, there is reminiscing, and joking, and in some cases maybe just a touch of reinventing reality. But more than anything else, there’s a shared spirit, a sense that we are together because….well, because we were together at another time in our lives, and it feels somehow like fulfilling a mission to close this particular circle again every few years.

As I see it, reunion moments take on two different forms. The first form is the nostalgia: “Remember when we…” and “How did that evening end when we…” and “What were we thinking when we decided to...” The second form is the connecting in the moment, the process of not just recalling who everyone once was but finding out who everyone turned into. While there were probably many moments of reminiscing in between the group dinners and other organized events of this past weekend’s reunion, it was more notable how much mingling was going on. People were going way beyond their teenage circle of friends, and presumably talking about the present, or the years that have led up to the present.

It makes sense to me, because while remembering old times is often fun, I find exploring current times to be a lot more interesting. Now well into our forties, we have so much to talk about, no matter how well we did or did not know each other thirty years ago. We talk about careers and career changes, children or childlessness, aging parents or deceased parents, good decisions, bad decisions, serious illness or brushes with the law.

As it happens, this was our first reunion that marked the death of a classmate – or actually two. Our class had been blessed with unusually good luck in that regard; while all the classes around ours had suffered their share of early tragedies, our class had stayed intact for 27 whole years after graduation, and then two losses came within one year.

It’s a sobering reminder that every time we gather in five-year increments from here forward, there may be fewer of us. But it’s also a reminder of how essential it is to gather. We talk, and we listen, and we learn. I’m making the reunion sound somber, and it certainly wasn’t that. The late-night revelry I didn’t stay up for was presumably far more rowdy than the cocktail parties and dinners I attended, but even those felt festive and celebratory. And they should. Reunions are about reuniting. It is good to be together again, for no better reason than to celebrate our shared existence.

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