Ten years ago, I planned my ten year high school reunion.
Three months ago, I wasn’t even sure if I’d attend the twenty year reunion.
I’d said an emphatic “no” to planning this year’s event, and perhaps like many of my peers, had gotten it in my head, that there wasn’t necessarily a need to see all of those people again.
I keep in touch with a handful of folks, and beyond that, faces of individuals and families and life events filter through my Facebook feed on a regular basis. Need I really actually go and see all of them again? Should I really relive my teenage days for three hours on a Saturday night, when I knew my husband didn’t really care to go, when it would be an extra hassle on my part just to get away, when I’m supposedly in the middle of an intense book writing season?
But then I found myself saying yes.
I found myself buying a ticket, and agreeing to a road trip three hours south, and then, a week before the event, coming alongside this year’s reunion planner to help her think through and execute all the last-minute details.
I am nothing, if not contradictory.
And a funny thing happened along the way: I began to get excited, all over again.
I’d see a picture that looked like this…
And I’d remember what it felt like to stand on Homecoming Court, yet not really feel like I fit in anywhere at all.
Or I’d see a picture that look like this…
And I’d think about how I felt indestructible at that moment in my life – like nothing or no one could stop me, even if I didn’t know who my people were.
But then Saturday night rolled around, and all the big and little details came together. As one person brought in a letterman’s jacket and another a cheer uniform, we decorated the tables with yearbooks and votives and blue table decorations from the craft store.
It was minimal, but we didn’t need anything more than that, because as each and every person gathered in the hallway and then walked through the door, we remembered what really mattered that evening: these people. Our people. Our classmates.
In some ways, I had a hard time swallowing the ten year reunion: secure in our twenties, a vibe of who’s in and who’s out still penetrated the evening. Those groups that defined still threatened to overwhelm us, and sometimes it felt like we were just competing to see whose jobs and whose beliefs and whose lifestyle choices were the best.
But suddenly, none of that mattered anymore in our late thirties.
As each classmate walked through the door, genuine joy welled up in my throat: I know you, and you know me, because of this time we shared together.
We shared desks next to one another for twelve, six and four years of our lives. We watched one another play sports and run around the playground and score winning touchdowns, too. We saw each other fail and we saw each other succeed, but more than anything, we were present to one another as we discovered who we were, as we tried on different versions of us, and began to realize why we were the way we were.
Without even knowing it, we bore witness to one another. And sometimes, that’s all that matters in the end.
Like Sylvester Stallone said last week on This is Us, “There’s no such thing as a long time ago. There are memories that mean something, and memories that don’t.”
And maybe I’m just beginning to realize that the memories that mean something are simply the memories created by bearing witness as we come of age, as we discover who we are, as we are reminded of who we are at the depths and core of our beings.
Or so it went with this girl…
And this girl…
And these ones too…
Because when I see these people, and when they see me, there is a knowing – a knowing that few people in my life now understand.
But they know, and they understand, and somehow, they love me just the same.
So maybe the twenty year reunion really is the best of all.
So, twenty year high school reunion: love it? Hate it? If you went to your twenty year reunion, what was your experience? If you’re thinking of going in the future, what do you think it’ll be like? Chat away!0