I’m still basking in my vacation afterglow as I write this post. I have a California tan in my arms to show off for a quick visit to the happiest place on Earth and to an unusually sun-baked Hogsmeade Village. But a lot of the feel-good post vacation feeling comes from the fact that I was part of a high school class “pocket” reunion, the very first one we held on American soil. And it was a blast. I confess that before it became a reality, I had my doubts. I’m sure many others thought the same and feared that all the hoopla (that included an online survey, multiple emails flying back and forth, and even the creation of a blog) would end up in nothing. But five of us met in L.A. and it was great fun.
It’s been more than 35 years since we graduated from high school. Three of us currently reside in the United States; the other two, in Lima, Peru. All the uneasiness that I would not have anything in common with them (other than the time we spent in the same classroom) melted away as we caught up with each other, teased, joked, sang, and remembered together. Our lives represented quite a variety of experiences. Here we were the eternally single, the happily married, the divorced and dating again, the surviving spouse. Or here we were the business owner, the 8-5 office workers, the laid-off and the in-between jobs. We are dealing with the cards Life handed us out whether we liked them or not and even if some of us ended up quite in a different place from the one we dreamt back when we were school, none of us judged or made fun of the other’s destiny. Instead we gave and received acceptance. And we laughed so much wherever we went, squeezed all together in one car on the way to the Disneyland, or waiting in line 75 minutes to get on the Forbidden Journey ride, or sharing ginger chicken at a Chinatown’s restaurant. We remembered missing classmates and long lost impossible crushes. We also mourned school friendships that didn’t make it into adulthood. One of us reminded the rest that we can never know what happened in people’s lives to change them for the worse and so they’re no longer the person we once knew. We have grown older and thankfully, wiser too.
Three days went, as they say, too fast when you’re having fun. We parted tired but happy. And thanks to real-time posts to Facebook and Whatsapp of our “adventures” in Disneyland and Universal Studios, the rest of the class, maybe regretting that they had missed on the fun, was already circulating location suggestions for the next reunion.
I had to admit that the reunion went better than I thought. I expected that the past would be the centerpiece of it, but it wasn’t. Sure, we talked about our teachers, about our most and least favorite classes, our respective cliques, and about who was going out with whom back then. But we also bonded over our college-bound kids, over care giving to our parents, job and financial issues, middle-age aches and pains, and our retirement dreams. This reunion gave me the opportunity to get to know my classmates as adults. That feeling of invincibility of our youth may be gone. Life has knocked us down. Some got it harder than others. But here we were and as I listened to and watched these four friends share the past and open up about their present and future with me, I had to say, “We turn out okay, after all.”
“So how was your reunion?” My nephew asked as he drove me home from the airport.
“It was awesome. We stayed in the park until past midnight, survived on chips and snacks all day, and didn’t go back to the hotel until 2 in the morning.”
“I’ve done that with my friends,” he said.
“We also sang in the car and giggled like teenagers all the time.”
“Auntie,” he said, with a worried look on his face. “That’s… scary.”
And I thought, He’s just 18. Give him thirty-five more years and he’ll understand.