I went to my 25th High School reunion this weekend. It was an eye-opening, life-affirming, clarifying experience.
I went into the reunion with a good deal of trepidation. As I've written elsewhere in this blog, I had the impression that I was an "unpopular geek" during High School (see http://timothychenallen.blogspot.com/2007/06/my-25th-high-school-reunion-this-friday.html). After 25 years, it turns out I was the only person in my High School who thought that. I showed up for the initial event on Friday night after flying in from Philadelphia, and had the embarrassing realization that I had problems recognizing even some of my closest friends. 25 years had changed all of us quite a lot. One of my best friends in school, Walter Mobley, was completely unrecognizable to me until he spoke, whereupon I recognized him immediately.
My next realization was that the changes of 25 years had left most of us a lot better looking than we were in High School. I decided that Brian Fournier had gotten to look exactly like Brian Fournier should have looked all along, for example.
I had interesting conversations with people I had been afraid to talk to in High School. After 25 years, these people had stopped being people for me and had started becoming concepts. I found myself saying to myself, "wow, I'm talking with THE Kristi Ransom", then realizing that Kristi is a person who has continued to live and grow for exactly the same amount of time as I have since graduation.
And I arrived at the conclusion that everyone, and I mean everyone, was so self-conscious in High School that it was impossible for us to have an accurate impression of what was really happening around us. As self-absorbed as I am now, I was MUCH more so in High School. We had all found personae that we hoped would work for us, trying out new stuff occasionally when we found that things didn't work. I believe that's what we've done since then as well. But I think that now that we're all in our forties we all seemed to have dropped a lot of the pretense and had come to accept the reality of our situations better.
I found that some of my most beloved teachers in High School were not so very beloved by many of my classmates. This came as a shock.
The first night I was one of the last to leave, sitting in a circle with Jeannie Landry, Laura Miller, and Mike Kelly, hashing out old times. They were three people I had known since I was nine years old. Good lord, that's 33 years now. Jeannie's husband Alexander was with us, and I was pleased with what a nice guy he was. I had been a little dismayed with how many of us had divorced-- it seemed like all but four of us out of the 50 or so attendees had divorced. Surprisingly, almost all had remarried, and they all seemed to be happy with their current spouses.
I went for a run the next morning with every intention of running to the end of my road and back. I ended up running through the entire town. Lumberton has grown so much in the last 25 years. We had one traffic light when I was here, and the High School I went to was newly constructed in our sophomore year. Now the schools have grown to have more buildings to house many more students. There are lots of restaurants (we had Sonic and the Wagon Wheel), an office building, and many more businesses in general. Just about everyone in the class had remarked on this, and how Lumberton had ceased to be our Lumberton about ten years ago.
I have to say that the kids in Lumberton sure looked and acted a lot like we did when I was a kid.
I hung out with Troy Soileau the second day for much of the day. We drove around and saw the entire town and then drove out to Lake Charles for a while. We caught up on our families of origin and the families we were building ourselves. Troy was one of the people who remained married to his original spouse, Pamela. They seemed to get along really well. As I listened to him talk, I thought about how all of us had fought our own personal battles, and how some of our most harrowing experiences had made us what we were. Every one of the 128 members of our graduating class had lived through the exact same number of days since graduation day, and many of those days were filled with crises, disappointments, and occasionally, triumphs.
The second night more people came and I was reunited with three of the four guys who I considered the Geek Crowd (Charles Johnson, Walter Mobley, Paul Smith, and Markel Kelly-- Markel couldn't make it), who I hung out with my last few years. They all seemed to have grown into their lives and were happy. They also seemed a lot less geeky now, more like three guys who had found their grooves.
I was elected "least changed boy". It was nice-- the question came up about who had changed least and just about everyone said my name.
I had a long conversation with Ginger Jenkins. She had become a journalist. I asked if she had done any other writing, and she discreetly said, yes, I wrote a novel. It made me feel really humble-- if I had written a novel, I'd probably have walked around saying, "nice to see you, I wrote a novel" to everyone. She spoke about what an amazing process it had been, and how she was working on another now. I was proud of her. I wanted to read her novel.
I stayed until the end, sitting around as the staff cleared the tables, talking with the Marianne Blackstock, Joy Carter, Paul Smith, Laura Miller, John Crowe, and Mark Mitchell. I think we were all a little in awe of what we had just done. We talked about doing it again in five years. I hope we do.