Caught up in memories
Like lots of people my age, I just attended my 50th high school reunion. My first one. Always before something else was going on – I had to work, was moving that weekend, or already traveling. This year I had no excuse. And this year, I had a friend willing to go with me. So, we went.
Memories – good and bad – came to me in the days before, during and after the reunion. In no particular order, I remembered the friend whose eyes teared up as she told me that she’d miss me when she got to heaven (a Presbyterian at the time, I had no chance in her eyes), another who often told the story of me bumping into a wall and immediately apologizing to that wall, my debate partner who had a weekend job minding the town dump so we sweated over our speeches beside the wood stove in his tiny sentinel shack. Of those three friends I remember so fondly, two have passed away. I missed my chance to laugh at myself through their eyes.
At the reunion events themselves, I talked to a handful of people. Some I’d known since grade school, others since our days as Camp Fire girls, some I’d known from my church youth group, and one whom I’d never spoken to before. She told me that night that she’d joined our class as a senior because her parents had moved. In three events over three days, I actually talked to about a dozen people – probably breaking my actual high school conversation record. I was a sorry teen-ager from a monumentally dysfunctional family. I suffered from that odd intersection of no confidence in myself most of the time and the occasional you-can-do-it blunder into embarrassment. As people passed by me, reading my name tag and giving me a glimpse of their own, I recognized a lot of names, if not faces. If memory serves, the beautiful people from my class are still beautiful, brimming with confidence and reveling in the friendships they forged a long time ago.
I had a few surprises over the weekend. I did a little hiking with a friend I’d known since grade school but know a lot better now. She has endured a lot with grace, humility and faith-shaped common sense. She inspired me. And there was a guy I remember as funny and kind and too handsome for me who came out of the blue to take my arm and make sure I boarded the lake cruise ship without falling. I am really not a doddering old woman trying to cross the street. But maybe the three gin and tonics I’d had before we met the night before convinced him I had a tendency to teeter.
My friend since fourth grade and I took the time to drive past the houses we’d lived in (all of which seemed a little worn and much smaller than we’d remembered), the elementary school we’d attended where we swept fallen pine needles into lines, marking out houses and stables and pathways in our pretend villages. We stopped by the beach where we swam every summer day. These days an iron fence runs from the private yards of fancy houses down into the water. It seems that after years of beaches being public property, as they continue to be in more enlightened communities, this stretch of lake shore now may be owned, fenced off and buried in driftwood, trash and junk because their private owners don’t use or clean it. Apparently land-use laws are like good high school friends. The good ones die too soon.
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