I did not go to my 5th high school reunion.
I did go to the 10th, 20th, 30th, 40th — and last night, the 45th reunion for the Salisbury High School class of ’74.
It was amazing. These stats are not accurate, but I think I heard there were 140 grads in attendance — and I think that’s about half the class.
I also heard that, statistically, the 45th is the last chance to have a big gathering, and that they diminish significantly thereafter.
There was a short memorial — both at the reunion itself and in the digital communications leading up to it. Compared to previous reunions, a shocking number of classmates have passed away.
If you’re from a big city, this kind of event would be a weird thing.
If you’re from a small town where you went to school with the same people for 3, 6, or 12 years, you may be able to relate to the exquisite specialness of an event like this.
There are a few people in my class who had a parent who went to school with and attended similar class reunions with my mother. And there are those, who, like me, got stuck in Salisbury. Some of those have children who graduated in the same ceremonies from the same school with my children.
Yet, I’m guessing most people traveled a ways, from other counties and even from faraway states like Tennessee and California and Colorado.
It was a bit like a family reunion.
The music was loud and there was probably more dancing than talking. Many things were said to me that I simply could not hear. I’m a little hoarse today from trying to hold conversations over the music.
No problem. The talking wasn’t all that important. After all, we do have Facebook. The days of exchanging biography and resume are past.
This was about smiling, hugging, shaking hands, being alive, and being together.
The bulk of reunion conversation is always in the world of reminiscing (so much fun!).
But in addition to the reminiscences — here are a few observations about reunion conversation topics I remember:
• 10th reunion: Marriage? Education? Military? Got a good job? Children?
• 20th: How many children? Career? Money? House?
• 30th: Still married? Remarried? Parents okay? Kids okay? Bush or Kerry?
• 40th: Had a colonoscopy? Parents alive?
• 45th: Retired? So sorry about your loss.
My experience (mine only, I know) was distinct from any other things that happen in my life. It’s an eruption of emotion and cognitive overload that begins in a moment and ends just as abruptly, a few hours later.
Resumes be damned at the 45th. Cliques and accomplishments and failures be damned. I did not hear the word Trump a single time.
In the background, there’s a sense of loss. All of us have dealt with the heartbreak and loss of loved ones — some more painful than others. But, by now, no one has been spared an abundance of devestating loss — most of it unknown to the rest of us. We don’t know all the details, but we know things happened, and we sort of love each other. And we’re wondering (at least I am) if and when we’ll see each other again.
That heartbreak, held up against the excitement of being together, gives the occasion a special, delicate joy for the opportunity to be in the world with those we love and participate in life itself.