This summer I’ll go to my fiftieth high school reunion. I find that a little intimidating. Many people have kept up with high school classmates over the years. Some have never left the community and maintain close relationships with childhood friends who also never left. I had best friends as a teen, but they were not enduring friendships. I saw a few of them off and on during college, but for the most part they quickly dropped out of my life. I didn’t think much about it at the time. I was busy building a career, first in my home town, and then living nearby while working elsewhere in the metropolitan area. New people became acquaintances, if not friends. Travel took me away for long periods. In time I moved to the other end of the country. Whatever the reasons, it was as if high school dissolved into the ether of things remembered, but only on occasion.
Time and distance have passed, and now I am planning to go back. The reunion committee has set up a website showing where classmates live, listing all those who care to be listed, and offering opportunities for brief stories. I was surprised to see how many of them have not moved more than a few dozen miles away. Were they ever in my field of awareness during the time I also lived there? Apparently not. I was also surprised to see how others have clustered in certain places such as northern California and central Florida, and that some of them have found each other to renew their friendships. A relatively few of us moved to places remote from one another. My closest classmate neighbor is 400 miles away in Whitefish, MT. From time to time we exchange Facebook greetings.
I have only one comparison to make, and that was my wife’s reunion in her home town last year. Her’s was a small school, and she was reunited with people whom she had known from kindergarten through graduation. Though the intervening years had taken her into worlds and experiences few of them could imagine, the ties of childhood ran deep as evidenced by the embracing affection that was shared between them.
It will be an interesting experience to be a stranger among strangers at my own reunion. My ties do not go as deep as those rooted in my wife’s small school. Mine was a consolidated high school that brought in students from miles around. It seems unlikely that there will be much sharing of mutual affection among those who had known each other from potty training through graduation. So why do I want to go to it? I’m not sure. Curiosity has something to do with it. We all started into our adult lives from the same acre of ground, regardless of differences in our family circumstances. We were all, more or less, exposed to the same secondary education, which, in my opinion, was a very good one. Where did that lead us? What paths did we take? What have we learned? Who have we become? I wonder too if, perchance, there are among old classmates some with whom friendship can be renewed again for the first time.
I’m also curious about the town. I was active in community affairs in my early adulthood, and had a role in developing plans for its economic future. I wonder how that worked out. I wonder if there is another young person who is active in community affairs with a vision of what could be in thirty or forty years.
Finally, I’m curious about the idea of maturity. It is said that many people do not mature emotionally much beyond age eighteen. But what about regression? How often I have had adult parishioners confess that the core of their problem in dealing with their parents is how quickly they regress to the child-parent relationship of years past when they get together. Do emotionally mature men and women in their late sixties tend to regress to their teens when assembled with others whom they have not seen since then? I guess I’ll find out.