How many words do you figure it would take to sum up your life? A thousand? Two thousand? In my case I discovered, to my horror, it was only about four hundred … at least to sum things up between high school and now. Recently, I spoke with a longtime friend who is debating whether or not to attend his 50th high school reunion this year. After I had finished laughing at him about being older than dirt, he reminded me that my 50th was next year. I stopped laughing.
I have never been to any of my reunions because I’ve managed to stay in touch with most of the people I really cared about and I guess I’ve heard too many stories about the tall-tale competitions at such affairs. I’m comfortable with what I’ve actually accomplished and never felt the need to impress anyone beyond Vigi or myself. Besides, who needs to squeeze into a rented penguin costume and shell out a hundred bucks-a-head just to gawk at a bunch of old folks gawking back at you … all wondering who’s who because nobody looks remotely like anybody remembers them?
It isn’t that I haven’t been curious about the people who made up a huge chunk of my social world back then … I was simply never a joiner. Neither were the friends that I’ve stayed close with through this last [Gulp!] half-century or so. In fact, about the only thing any of us ever joined besides the Jazz Club, the school paper and a sports team or two, was the group of kids that didn’t want to join anything! Wel-l-l … I guess you can’t get away from it altogether.
Anyway, in a fit of persistence, some pesky web site had been flooding me with e-mail invitations to sign up and contact others from my graduating class, whose curiosity had already been coerced by the site’s free membership deal … free until you wanted to read the note a former classmate might have sent. It looked legit enough, despite all the singles ads around the edges … but before I talked with my buddy about the reunion I was having none of it. Now, suddenly, my mind shifted into second gear and I was back in my Ford flathead-8. A wave of nostalgia started the butterflies in my stomach dancing and, before I realized what I was doing, I filled out the on-line form and was quickly separated from about 50 plastic George Washingtons. I joined.
As I searched the site I really didn’t recognize many familiar names but, out of respect for hallowed halls, pom-poms and all things holy, I uploaded a couple of ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures, took a quiz about my interests [most of which weren't listed] and wrote a bio about what I’d been doing since high school. That was my first shock. I always thought I had lived a pretty full life but apparently not … not if I could cram it all into 400 words! That anyone could distill an entire life down to a mere five paragraphs was frightening, especially when that life was my own!
A week or so passed before I received an e-mail saying there had been three new visitors to my ‘page’. It turned out that one name led to a surprisingly familiar face. The lady in the photo had hardly changed at all. In fact, she looked even better than back in school! Where were all the old fogies I expected to find? Then, in her ‘comments’ box, I noticed three little words left by a self-confessed female friend, “Nice picture Beth.” MEOW! You could hear the claws cut the air! Maybe it wasn’t her most current picture or something might have been tweaked a little … or maybe life had simply treated her with kid gloves. In any case, it engages the mind to see ‘Harry High School’ still with a twinkle in his eye, even though his whiskers have grayed more than a little!
To shorten the story and keep your eyes from glazing over, it is sufficient to say that I forged ahead and did find the fogies I was supposed to. Even where there hadn’t been close ties, we were genuinely happy to make contact. It was comforting in a way, like an old shirt on a chilly night, as good times with good people began to peek through the cobwebs shrouding the intervening years. I even unearthed my old yearbook for more forgotten names. It’s amazing how many people have simply slipped away, leaving only a puzzle of familiar faces.
My journey back to that far galaxy, which I’m happy to say still continues, has led me to a couple of conclusions. First, it’s okay to look back, maybe even healthy … as long as you don’t stare. Next, my forgotten friends, who have now found a home in a place called school chums, deserve their own positions of honor beside my longtime pals of past and present. Finally, that warm wash of nostalgia I feel when I immerse myself in those carefree days is actually a kind of mourning. If I’m honest with myself, they weren’t all that terrific. I’m only remembering the good stuff. I don’t think I’m missing the proverbial ‘good old days’ as much as I am mourning the loss of my youth. I left being young back there somewhere, in a simpler time on a different planet.
Maybe that’s the best reason of all to consider going to the reunion next year … not to rediscover old times or even resurrect old feelings but just to spend a few hours with some old friends who remember leaving something back there, too.
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