For many of today’s baby boomers, high school reunion is a fading memory. Not so much, though, for writer Julia Jones.
It’s that time of year again! You go to your mailbox one afternoon and there it is. Laying there, innocently looking like another bill or piece of junk mail. Then you look closer, and realize what it is. It’s an invitation … to your high school reunion. Your heart beats faster, your palms sweat, and you feel a nervousness you had forgotten over the years.
For a boomer, it may be your 20th, 25th, maybe even your 30th reunion. You may or may not have attended any of the prior gatherings. Either way, the nervousness remains, because you still remember those old high school insecurities. Will I know anyone? Will I be welcomed? Will I have anyone to talk to? Am I too fat (or bald)? Will my high school sweetheart be there? Has he or she changed as much as I have? Will he or she even remember me? Will that football player (cheerleader) I had the crush on know I am alive now? The answers are: yes, yes, yes, no, maybe, yes (definitely), maybe, yes.
The main answer to the biggest question (Should I go?) is, ABSOLUTELY YES. Going back to your childhood is a wonderful experience, and it evens out some of the unfair memories we all have. The others have aged the same number of years you have; they have lost their hair, gained some weight, married, divorced, moved, changed careers, and had a mid-life crisis or two.
In the process, they have all become your equals. The cliques of our past no longer exist, and everyone laughs and remembers and hugs and cries and promises to stay in touch. (Most don’t, but don’t take that personally either.) There are a few laughs when you realize that the prom queen is the one who gained the most weight; that the football hero flunked out of college and now works in a bank; and the ugly-duckling, shy girl from English Lit is now CEO of a production company in California.
There are a few tears too, as you realize your best friend from 9th grade is still your friend, and you are ashamed of letting so much time pass without communicating. You are prettier than some, thinner than some, and as proud of your kids as everyone else. You will drink a little too much, laugh too loud, do the Twist again, (maybe need a chiropractor the next day!), and sit up in a coffee shop until 4 a.m. talking because you can’t bear to part from those old memories that have become so precious.
You will renew the affection for old friends, become friends with someone you did not particularly like in Algebra class, and maybe leave with a crush on that guy or girl you never realized was even in your Biology lab (boy, did HE turn out to be a HUNK)! You will leave with a warm heart, a pocket full of new e-mail addresses and phone numbers, and a promise to do it again “soon.” You will mean it, but don’t be too hard on yourself if life gets in the way and you forget to write or call.
These friends share something with you that will never be forgotten, and you gain more than any price you pay to be there. What is your biggest gift? Acceptance of the kid in you. The one who never felt quite popular enough, pretty enough, athletic enough, or smart enough. Life has evened out the differences, and we have all made some pretty cool contributions to the world.
That’s a nice thing to know. That reunion is one place to find out.