Reminiscing hurts. It hurts in a way I can’t explain. It hurts in a bittersweet way. My 20-year class reunion was Saturday (Oct. 7). I can’t believe how awesome everyone looked and that’s weird, because at the ten-year reunion I thought a lot of people were looking kind of beat up.
I found myself sitting at a table with Shelly Douglas. I remembered Shelly from high school, though I had never talked to her. (Our graduating class had over 400 students in it). To break the ice I said to her, “So did you attend Davison in 7th-12th grades?” “No,” she said. “Just in high school.” I said, “Well Shelly, after attending high school together for four years, how about you and I converse right now for the very first time?” We got a laugh out of it.
I proposed we play a game where we all act as spitefully toward one another as we acted in high school. I thought we might call it “The Hate Game.” I abandoned this idea when I realized that it would involve being pushed into a locker and an unwanted round of keepaway with my hat before the evening was through.
And I realized that time does heal wounds. I have no doubt that had my strongest persecutors from high school been at the reunion (which they weren’t), we’d have spoken about our families and careers and the lives we have carved out for ourselves. We’d have shared a few laughs and wished one another well. And meant it.
I was surprised how many people seemed to beat a path to come talk to me who had never talked to me in school. Somehow as we grow up and get older we seem to take comfort in the companionship of those who have been journeying with us all this time. Every ten years we realize that time isn’t on our side as much as we once thought. In light of that we decide that perhaps catching up to a heretofore invisible companion and making contact for the first time isn’t such a bad idea.
I was amazed not only by the attempts at contact, but by the heartfelt sincerity in those conversations, and the deep wishes for the well-being of my family and me. Even more, I was surprised to find that same sincerity, those same heartfelt wishes, welling up in me as I talked to others. It is strange to find myself deeply desiring the well-being of people I went to school with but oftentimes didn’t even know, and thus could not authentically care about, twenty years ago.
I know what one of the main connections is. It’s having a family. Most of my classmates are now parents, like me. They have children, like me. They have found a place in this world that rewards them for daily work and they live to spend quiet evenings at home with 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 people who mean more to them than anyone else in the world. They struggle to balance work and family. They too are filled with both hope and fear for the future, and now their hopes and fears, like mine, are bound up in the lives of their children.
And they share a part of my life that not many share. We are united in a common background, with common teachers, common classes, common memories, a common community where common soil nurtured us and prepared us for launch. Now every ten years we get together and ask the question, “So what are you up to?”
It seems like a shallow question – an overly obvious question. It’s an easy question to be cynical about, to make fun of; a question I knew I’d be asking a lot. I was just surprised to find myself, every time I asked it, caring so much about the answer.