This past weekend my high school class had its second reunion since graduation. We'll get this part of it over quickly - our 40th. Seeing it again in print makes me think how unbelievable that number is - but it is what it is.
As part of the organizing committee I arrived at Saratoga Steaks early to set up. Karen, recently the receptionist-do everything person from our office, now "retired," had sent postcards and produced name tags for us. Simply the picture from the yearbook, the bulldog (Nottingham High School on the east side of Syracuse), and the name. I asked for a larger font, because our eyes aren't what they were. So there I stood, ready to match name tages to faces, and people started to flow in.
I hadn't seen too many people since high school, even the ones still in town. I'd been gone for 20 years and the ties had severed. I knew my small group of women friends from all over the country, but that was it. The first arrivals were hard - who were these people? But then the years literally melted away on faces, the old smiles and eyes emerged, the laughter and I knew them.
I stood there as official greeter for a couple hours until Dean, our principle organizer, pulled me away so I could mingle. I went through the crowd, now able to recognize people easily under the grey hair and a few wrinkles. Some of course hadn't aged. One woman looked the same as she had back in first grade, I swear!
Just as with the 20th reunion, the people who I felt closest to came from my elementary school (Sumner) and junior high school (Levy) days. There was Sammy who had kissed me in kindergarten, Kevin with whom I shared a birthdate, Gail who remembered my Steiff collection, Phyllis who said I had let her borrow my Laura Ingalls Wilder books in 3rd grade and she wanted to thank me. I saw Nick who had been my partner for our 8th grade project on Kenya for Captain Borsky, Jan who reminded me that he sat behind me in 3rd grade, Jeff who was always there and got spanked harder on his birthday than my friend Annie because he was a boy. Or she just had more petticoats!
Everyone talked about the teachers who had changed our lives. Sarah ran for office because Mr. Borsky terrorized her into doing it. We wished Sr. Roraback were still alive so we could thank him. And the Queen (Latin). M. Macko didn't come, but Miss Crouch came with Nicki who kept up with her over the years, taking her down to Florida and including her in her own family.
Food was put out, but I don't think anyone ate. They just talked and talked. We left at 11:30 - surprised at the time. Gloria had lost her voice.
The next night was the dinner at Drumlins where we used to skate and ski. Packed again - over 100 people from a class of 250 with very few spouses or partners. The invocation was given by a man who was always playing pranks in high school and rarely studied, but is now an ordained minister. And again, the talking. Business cards were exchanged - I now have a real estate contact in Colorado, and surprisingly a commercial one here in Syracuse. Joe came over towards the end of the evening, and quite forcefully said how important these two nights were to him and to so many others. I felt it in the air, a sense of relief, and sense of completion.
There were our "stars," Jeff from the entertainment world, Kevin with the 100 million dollar yacht design, Pete who could buy one. A politician here and there, both Democrat and Republican. The woman with the 16 year old daughter and the man with 13 great-grandchildren. The woman who looks so much like my daughter-in-law Rachel that I couldn't take my eyes off her. The two sisters whom I didn't remember very well from high school but who will join my small group of women friends in the future.
There were people missing as well. People who just didn't want to come for so many reasons. People who were too sick to come. People who had died.
At the last reunion I received a hug I will cherish always from my old friend Billy. He was one of the men who died. But that hug meant so much.
The people in our lives are precious. We need to remember them daily, go out of our way to say hello. I say that now, knowing that the feeling will dissipate with the snow and the new listings and sales. But I want to hold on to it, that sense of wonder. "The formative years...." so important in so many, many ways.
And no, I didn't win the prize for having changed the least. That went to Gloria. But I told her I'd beat her at our 60th.
So, dear Readers, call an old friend today or this week. It's good for the soul.