Last night, Vic and I attended our 20-year high school reunion. We had a really good time, despite the fact that we arrived an hour late to the dinner dance (due to bad time management on my part).
I wasn't very excited about going, especially after finding out that some of our closest friends weren't planning to attend. It would be like going to a wedding where you don't know anyone, I thought. Plus, Vic and I have been so consumed with home and work responsibilities lately that we haven't really been focusing on us - our relationship, our history, our past, present, future. I had been kinda grumpy about it for the past few weeks and asked Vic if he was looking forward to the reunion at all.
"Sure!" He smiled. "I mean, the 10-year worked out pretty well for me." I was a little surprised he was so cheerful about it, but happy he remembered the last reunion as an important turning point for us. After all, that was when we had started dating again. We had been together our senior year of high school for a brief period, but it was at our 10-year reunion that we really got together. After that event was over, we spent the next several hours catching up on everything we had been up to since high school. Following that, we maintained a long-distance relationship - Cleveland/Los Angeles - for several months and then moved to San Francisco together.
Ten years later, we are married with two young boys. We've moved back to Cleveland and we're building a life together that is crazily overstuffed. It seems that this has been the case for many of our fellow high school classmates. In reading my classmates' bios in our reunion memory book, it was plain to see that we have traveled similar emotional journeys. Along the way, we've lived through joy, disappointment, births, deaths, marriages and divorces.
Last night, I reconnected with a number of old friends and acquaintances. We talked about our growing kids, our ailing parents, our jobs, our hobbies. I talked to a few women about the classic push-pull of being a working mom.
Today, thinking about my conversations from the night before, I was reminded of something I read in college in a creative writing class I took with Mary Grimm. The novella, The Age of Grief by Jane Smiley, stuck with me over the years. Even though it moved me then, it didn't seem nearly as relevant as it does now. This part, in particular, resonates with me:
I am thirty-five years old, and it seems to me that I have arrived at the age of grief. Others arrive there sooner. Almost no one arrives much later. I don't think it is years themselves, or the disintegration of the body. Most of our bodies are better taken care of and better-looking than ever. What it is, is what we know, now that in spite of ourselves we have stopped to think about it. It is not only that we know that love ends, children are stolen, parents die feeling that their lives have been meaningless. It is not only that, by this time, a lot of acquaintances and friends have died and all the others are getting ready to sooner or later. It is more that the barriers between the circumstances of oneself and of the rest of the world have broken down, after all -- after all that schooling, all that care. Lord, if it be thy will, let this cup pass from me. But when you are thirty-three, or thirty-five, the cup must come around, cannot pass from you, and it is the same cup of pain that every mortal drinks from.
I'm not feeling defeated and fatalistic about things, but I am feeling a bit melancholy. At one point during the reunion dinner dance, Vic turned to me and said, "Wow, when did we become middle-aged?"
For a banquet hall full of middle-aged people, I think we all looked pretty good, overall. We're older, of course, and some of us are grayer, balder, heavier. But it seems like we've weathered the years pretty well. It was fun to reconnect with people who shared a common set of experiences.
Later in the evening, Vic and I danced to Billy Joel's "This Is the Time", which had been the theme of our Prom(see below) and Berlin's "Take My Breath Away." It really brought me back to 1988, reminding me of the emotions I felt as a high school senior.
Anyhow, it was a wonderful evening and the organizers did a superb job putting the reunion weekend together. Despite my initial reservations about going, I'm looking forward to the 30-year event!
(Writer/Editor's Note: Vic and I were supposed to have gone to Prom together, but *someone* dragged his feet getting his tux and our tickets, so the other person decided to find another date. It is still a sore subject we don't like to talk about.)