Thursday, June 29, 2017

30

My thirtieth high school reunion.  I had to let those words sink in.  They hit me last Saturday night, in the parking lot of the Singer Island Hilton.  It was actually early Sunday morning.  As I walked to my car, I recalled Project Graduation, an alcohol and drug free celebration on the football field on graduation night, 1987.  I had stayed till 3:30 A.M. or so.  I tiredly walked off the field and up through those old outdoor concrete halls, out to the front of the campus and then homeward (I had no car at that time) without even a hint of sadness or regret.  I was ready to move on.

Funny what time does to your psyche.  I skipped my ten year reunion but became more intrigued with the whole idea later on.  The 20 was overall an OK experience but hardly a confirmation that I had missed anything prior.  The 25 was far better.  You can read about those on this blog.  The 30 had been discussed on Facebook for the past few years.  I was tired of it before it even happened.  Sort of like a Presidential election and its long campaigning trails. The 25 was quite satisfying.  It ended on such a good note I did not want to taint it with some awkward epilogue.   Honestly, much of life feels that way.

My closest hs buds sent me texts and messages months earlier.  Was I going? Yeah, sure.  Mainly 'cause they were.  I had no expectations this time out.  It felt more like an obligation.  There was a fair amount of guilt, too; many of these folks live locally, and I hadn't taken time to see (a majority of) them in five years.  For shame.  I feel less social with each passing year.  I do love and care for people, but I find I am much happier, more energized when I am with just my wife, or a few friends or family members.  Forced social interaction is deadly and just plain silly to me.  But...you never know what effect you may have on someone.

Earlier this week on Facebook I read a nicely worded summary of the past weekend.  This was from a guy who graduated one year earlier than me.  The Class of '86 had some miscommunications and their 30th didn't happen.  He and his wife flew from Washington state to attend our party, which as with the 25th was spread over three evenings (I was unable to attend the first night, a meet and greet at the hotel bar).

So Saturday night, after the festivities? A few of us went out for a snack and some quieter conversation and someone asked: "What did you think of the reunion?" The first thing that came into my mind was that this was asking me what I think of football, sunsets or video games. I.E. so much to like I'm not sure where to start, but I will now attempt to provide a deeper answer. As Ingrid said, it's not the venues, decorations, music or other accoutrements that made this a success though all were excellent. The chance to see old friends combined with family was terrific. Better yet is when someone whose time in HS was a little rocky and who stayed mostly out of touch for 25 years can come back, to a celebration largely focused on another class, even, and feel like they never left. Better still is when my darling better half, who went to high school 2000 miles away and had her own dramas from that era can come along and be made to feel like one of the gang. Best of all is when I can feel instantly connected to people that maybe I didn't know or wasn't the best of friends with, recognize how far each of us has come and make new friendships with folks I didn't know at all. Thanks to everyone who was involved in this incredible experience. 

I was one of those who joined him for "a snack and some quieter conversation".  I had met him once or twice during high school.  Was I part of his warm feelings? I like to think so. Despite an increasing (and yes, liberating) apathy as to whether people like me or not, I try my darndest to be open and friendly.  It's risky - sometimes you're met with rejection or even hostility.  I know how it feels on both sides.  That this new friend felt welcomed by his juniors speaks well of the social dynamics of the reunion.  

Oh, there was still some cliquishness to be observed.  The popular ones still sat together on the Friday night trolley ride and at the Saturday night semi-formal.  But I saw and experienced more interaction among everyone.  People do grow up and learn how to associate with others outside their old strata.  Most, anyway.  We had about fifty to sixty (out of a class of about four hundred twenty five) attendees.  Maybe most of the bona fide high school meanies didn't show.  Ah, a few did, but were cordial.  Or just drunk?

The trolley took us downtown for a pub crawl.  Bars with which I've long been familiar transformed into a temporary surreality.  We climbed several flights of stairs to a rooftop bar.  Many joked we were all too old for that.  The trolley ride was raucous, with '80s tunes blaring into distortion and several open containers.  A can of beer rolled up and down the aisle.  I'm sure the driver was elated when the night ended.  But before that, we had dinner and watched a band at my classmate's Greek restaurant.  It too was a bit noisy.  While waiting in line for the bathroom, I was asked by the belly dancer what sort of crowd we were: aggressive, rowdy?  Fire was a big part of her show and she seemed concerned.  I assured her, and there were no incidents.

There were several late coming surprise guests that night, including a guy who was always quite gifted at getting into trouble. I got into some with him back in junior high.  His father is one of my patients now, something that amuses all three of us to no end; I used to hang out at their house. Even more amusing is that my old friend now has a responsible job as an archivist.  

The next evening was a very low key dinner with OK food and a nice slide show.  Seeing old photos can be both hilarious and depressing, for multitudes of reasons.  The tables were decorated with Rubiks cubes, cassette tapes, Trivial Pursuit cards, and reading glasses. There was music, but no one danced.  The two ladies who worked extremely hard to organize the reunion were given plastic tiaras and wands, and lots of well deserved accolades.  One of them did her organizing all the way from Arizona.  

I could go on.  There's always so much to say about these things.  I had some good catch-up with my closest old high school friends, and even some quality time with those of whom I wasn't as friendly back in the day (a few dating back to elementary school).  It was a good time, but ultimately, as always, it evaporated moments after it concluded.

But that someone felt so welcomed and included is quite rewarding.  One never knows what encouragement you can give someone when you reluctantly drag yourself to that umpteenth gathering, be it a church social or even your thirtieth high school reunion.

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