Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Reunion Reminiscing

I don't like to date myself, but here goes. Last weekend I went to my 20th high school reunion. Twenty years...really?! I don't feel 20 years older than that excited teenager I was, eager for a whole new life. Heading off to college, I wasn't running away but rather to a new set of adventures. But the path my life took meant I lost touch with nearly everyone in my graduating class. Other than Facebook, this was my first chance to catch up on two decades of events.

As we walked in, I was greeted with warm hugs and smiles. My husband remarked that no one was wearing name tags. We didn't have to. In a graduating class of 36 where half of us were together since kindergarten, it's tough to forget faces and names.

No one can deny the first reaction at reunions is to judge the physical changes: who's thinner, who's heavier, who's grayer, who's balder, who hasn't changed a bit. I was surprised to find that most fell into the last category. If anything, I'd venture to say that most of us are more attractive than we were in high school. Maybe it's that we look more natural than our over-the-top 80's hair and clothes. Maybe it's that with age comes confidence. Maybe it's just wishful thinking.

The second level of reunions is the basic catch-up: where you live, what you do, who you married / divorced / married, how many kids you have. One friend congratulated me on my wedding--thanks, 12 years ago. Oops. Another asked if I'd become a brain surgeon. Is that what people expect of the valedictorian? "Heavens no," I replied. "I'm a video producer, freelance writer, and stay-at-home mother of three young kids--not necessarily in that order." Her face softened. She smiled even more when I applauded her for her dedication as a first grade teacher. Yet another friend commented, "I never pegged you for a SAHM." Had I disappointed my classmates in some way or were they glad to see even the smartest kid in the class (on paper anyway) knew the value in focusing her time and attention on her children?

With a few of my old acquaintances, I moved onto the third level of conversation: the realities of the life we've chosen. I missed our tenth reunion, but I gather that perhaps that was a time to compare successes--not necessarily realities. What degrees had you earned? How was your career going? Had you found Mr./Mrs. Right yet? There was also a natural division of those with kids and those without. By our 20th, our kids now range in age from 12 years old to 10 weeks in the womb. One even talked about adopting. It's not surprising that most of our conversations drifted to the next generation in some way.

"I couldn't even help my kid with her homework; I had to look it up online." "There are days I drive around the block a few extra times before descending into the chaos of home." "My life in LA is the same as everybody else's: packing lunches, car line, and grocery store runs--with the exception of few shin-digs like Jennifer Anniston's birthday party." Marrying a celebrity hadn't given her a big head; kids naturally kept her grounded. The truth is that not only do children change you--they humble you. You see the good, the bad, and the ugly of yourself in them, like a mirror the older they get.

It was refreshing to hear honest conversations; trying to impress each other wasn't a priority. And given more time (and music that wasn't blaring), we may have talked more about high school memories. Funny how that never came up. As one friend put it, "We're just more mellow." I say that's a good thing. Here's to the class of 1990! See you again in five years!

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