Going Back to Where I've Been From

Time travel seems to be a theme of my 2018 experience, which is fine by me since I am loving my little excursions and learning lessons that carry me forward.

I just attended my 50th high school reunion. I had not attended any reunions before this one. My parents moved out of the home I grew up in shortly after I graduated from high school and I didn’t stay in touch with any high school friends for long except my high school sweetheart who became but didn’t stay my first husband. So you can see it gets complicated. Raw heartbreak and rejection does not mix well with good ol’ times. And some of those good ol’ times weren’t that good.

But 50 years, I’m past all that, right?

Yes, we all are and that made this reunion sound attractive. Who would I find there? My co-survivors of adolescence. We all had lived a life full of heartbreak and fulfilment, traversed deserts and bounty, faced rejection and acceptance, found weakness and strength within us, grieved and loved, walked through life and survived a big chunk of it. We could be sincere, there was no longer face to lose.

My first activity with my classmates was a tour of the high school.  As I walked toward the others assembling at the flagpole, I couldn’t recognize faces and felt nervous that maybe I wouldn’t know anyone. But as we started to introduce ourselves and tell where we were traveling from and commenced other small talk, I saw the familiar faces and essences emerge from behind the fine facial lines and grey hair. Their welcome was enthusiastic. I was especially grateful to the those who warmly remembered my parents and happy times at my house. The topics of conversation seemed a very intuitive but precise recipe of old and new. Many interactions were about the here and now and the reminiscing stuck to positive ingredients. No one brought up high school romance although that seemed to be all that was talked about in my old yearbook inscriptions which I had perused in preparation.

Showing Larry the exact places where events that have become family lore took place was a highlight for us both.

At the dinner that night, the sweet welcome continued from people who had not come on the tour. David, a neighbor back then whom I had  for the first time when I was 2, hugged me and exclaimed, “I’ve been looking for you all night!” Another man apologized in tears for cruel and relentless teasing in junior high. I learned my best girl friend had died eight years after high school graduation, which made me regret losing touch with her so quickly. And my high school sweetheart? Peter was in the class ahead of mine but his brother, my former brother-in-law, had graduated with me. He too embraced me with a booming hello.  Our relationship had been a little tangled when we were teens just because it was tangled up with his brother. But now, fifty years later, there was only the happy feeling of finding a long lost cousin. He led me to meet his wife. The two of them had stayed in town and his wife had delivered my parents’ mail late in their life--a fact my parents had never mentioned, perhaps to spare me awkward feelings--and she told me how much she had loved them.

All in all, I was welcomed with open arms, which was an incredibly comforting feeling.

I realized that deciding to attend this reunion was our group honoring of how hard we all worked during those tumultuous adolescent years, not just to survive but also to connect. As an adult who has now reconnected, I am so grateful to them all.

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Mab Nulty