This past weekend was my 25th high school reunion. It was a full weekend of events, re-connections, new connections, and memories. We gathered at the Captain’s Table, a meeting place during our summers home from college. Getting ready, I remembered the tedious hours I spent in front of a mirror during the late ‘80s trying to get my hair just right before heading to meet friends at ”the Table.” I remembered the insecurity I felt about not having the right clothes, not getting my hair teased up enough to pass muster, or not feeling “thin” enough. I briefly re-experienced that feeling of worry about still not fitting in before heading to the bar this past Friday night.
Anyone who lived through the ‘80s knows “The Breakfast Club”--a classic examination of the social constructs of any high school and the insecurities most teenagers feel. Through that movie, we saw those who appeared confident and in control were just as troubled as the rest of us. The movie seemed to say, “no one is secure, everyone is struggling with their issues.” Perhaps this is true. While I don’t know everyone’s back stories, I do know that some people I felt envious of, intimidated by, or disliked in high school, I now felt deeply connected to. Partly, we have all grown and changed. But, even more so, there is a shared history between all of us, whether we only recognized each other in the hall or were close friends: a shared history that you really don’t get anywhere else in life. For some of us, it went as far back as kindergarten or early dance classes. For others it didn’t start until 7th or 8th grade. But, there is something comforting and familiar about the people you shared a building and teachers with every day for at least four years. Even those of us who didn’t travel in the same circles have the same stories about Mr. Dames and the New York Times, or Sharon Walworth and her tough teaching style. We share stories about football rivalries, Mr. Cone, the airplane park and the Bright Star Diner. In essence, we share growing up.
Any apprehension I had disappeared Friday night. I talked with people I was close friends with but had lost touch. I talked to people I hadn’t known well during school, and I talked to people I hadn’t liked (probably because I didn’t really know them). I shared in everyone’s triumphs and their sorrows. Saturday night was more of the same, more relaxing, and more full-filling. Sunday, was a visit to the old high school and a trip down memory lane. Some of the people there I didn’t know that well, but I left Sunday afternoon thinking of them as friends.
As I watched the next generation playing in the high school courtyard, I thought how easily my children make friends. I thought about how they’re just starting school and what a wonderful group of friends they have. Of their friends, I wonder how many will move, drift apart, or be separated by artificial barriers like popularity, sports, geekiness, or music. I wish a slightly different experience for my children- I want them to be more confident in high school than I was. Right now, they seem on track for that. But, I hope they have the same quality of memories that I have and such a wonderful group to share them with.