Friday, July 23, 2010

My 25th Year High School Reunion

My 25th Year High School Reunion

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
Copyright 2010

I attended my 25th year high school reunion this weekend, although I was a little nervous about going. After all, I had my share of the typical teenage angst and conflict, caused by my classmates and friends, and I hadn't seen any of them, except one, since graduation. And I hadn't seen that guy for 22 years.

I graduated in 1985 from Muncie Central High School in Muncie, Indiana (official motto: More State Basketball Titles Than Any U.S. High School, So Suck On THAT, Iowa). I was even a legacy student of sorts, because my stepfather graduated from Muncie Central in 1965.

I had only been back once, when I was still in college. I have driven past it twice since then, but other than that, I haven't had anything to do with my alma mater since.

I learned about the reunion on Facebook, that great reuniter of high school friends, past girlfriends and boyfriends, and brand new friends.. I started finding them, first one, then another, and then a whole handful of them as they had already been busy on Facebook tracking each other down. I got to catch up with them online, learning where life had taken them, what it had taken from them. Marriages, divorces, children, even grandchildren in a couple cases.

Grandchildren?! You're MY age. How the hell do you become a grandparent when you're MY age?! Let me tell you, nothing makes you feel older than realizing that your contemporaries are grandparents, and you've barely cracked your 40s.

So I drove back to my hometown of Muncie, to the reunion, reflecting on my past life in that other era. My years in the band, hanging out with the other band geeks. Meeting after football games at McDonald's. The fights and the feuds. The time several of us stole several For Sale signs and put them in our band director's yard. And an ex-girlfriend's yard. And in front of the school.

The Horizon Convention Center broke through my fog of nostalgia and I walked in. I looked around for any faces I recognized, but I didn't know anyone. They didn't look like any of the people I remembered from way back then.

These people were old. They looked like they were in their forties, not the 18-year-olds I had hugged and said good-bye to a quarter of a century ago.

Not me, of course. I was still as youthful looking as I was in high school. Oh sure, I had put on more than a few pounds, and had a beard. And wrinkles. And a lot less hair. Flecked with gray. But other than that — oh God! — I looked just like them.

If it hadn't been for our yearbook photos on our name tags, I think we would have spent the entire night trying to puzzle out who each other was.

"You remember, we were in Mr. Langdon's English class together. I helped you study for the test on Cannery Row."

"No, I don't remember."

"We dated for six months afterward!"

"Sorry, not ringing any bells."

Any fears I had, any long-ago feuds, were forgotten. These were not the kids I went to high school with. They weren't the obnoxious teenagers I spent four, six, or in some cases, 12 years of school with. These were moms and dads (and grandparents!), with had jobs, families, and histories.

They had moved beyond the teenage drama we had all shared They had made lives for themselves. Their kids were in high school and college. Some even had kids in our rival high school, but no one made faces or jokes about consorting with the enemy.

We discussed people we had kept in touch with, friends we lost touch with, those who didn't make it, and those who never would. We prayed for one friend who is now fighting cancer, and welcomed someone who never even graduated from our school (although we all remembered her from middle school).

Despite what I had seen from all the high school reunion movies (except "Peggy Sue Got Married." I never saw that one.), no one was trying to relive their high school glories. The high school quarterback had gotten fat, and never once discussed football, the homecoming queen didn't go into fashion, the punk had straightened up and gone into business for himself, and the party girl was now a PTA mom. The cliques weren't clicking, and bygones were truly bygones. And I didn't tell anyone I had invented Post-It Notes, despite my jokes about it with some friends earlier that week.

But as I looked around the room, saying my good-byes at 12:30, explaining that I was too old to stay up late and go to the bars afterward, I was struck by a singular thought.

I STILL don't look as old as these people.

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