In October my husband and I will travel to my hometown of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for my XX high school reunion. No, I’m not revealing the number. Safe to say, it is a discouragingly high number. Today I’m able to connect with some of these “friends” from high school on Facebook, which is how I learned about the reunion. Because of social media, we’re not as isolated as we once were.
This reunion will be a little hard, not only because of the big number and because several of my classmates have died, but because my parents are no longer alive. Their house, the house I grew up in, has been sold. Things just aren’t the way they used to be.
Several years ago, I wrote about an earlier high school reunion in the old Sisterwriters blog. Here it is.
The Real Reunion Game
I’ve started spring cleaning. While going through a bunch of papers, I found this essay I wrote in 1988.
I survived my twentieth high school reunion the Saturday before Labor Day. I say “survived,” because I was sure I wanted to go.
You see, I’m not the same person I was back in high school. Back then, my classmates were all important to me. Their approval, or lack of it, dramatically shaped my young ego and personality. Now I like myself better; I’m more confident. In other words, my self-esteem is stronger.
Yet on the way to the reunion, ghosts of the way we used to be danced across my mind.
“Where are you now? What do you do? How many children do you have?” These were the questions we asked each other.
The gray-haired man who did his ninth grade career project on being a band director is a band director today. The first black man appointed to the Naval Academy from Tennessee now works for IBM. The class brain is still doing brainy things in Boston. Some of the creeps aren’t so creepy. The head cheerleader isn’t so beautiful. We are all a little fatter, a little more gray.
“From what I remember about Jan, I knew you’d be a writer,” one classmate told me. Funny. I hardly talked to him in high school. Another friend who’d gone to my church didn’t recognize me. One woman said, “You still have that pretty smile I remember.”
“I wouldn’t go back to the way it was,” I said to a friend. She agreed, but said with a laugh, “Just for tonight.”
The great thing about reunions is that they help us re-program our perceptions. Other people do not see us as we see ourselves. And it is our perception of ourselves that cloud our behavior, just as mine was clouded in high school. We become who we think we are.
You know, I had more fun at the reunion than I expected. The food was good and the music from our favorite high school rock band, re-formed for the reunion, was loud and pulsating. As my husband and I danced in a corner of the crowded floor, I realized the ghosts were gone.