Last Saturday I attended my fortieth high school reunion. As I entered the hotel lobby it suddenly struck me how long ago it had been since I had seen my classmates. The class of 1973 was the second class to graduate from our newly minted Triton Regional High School. We had spent two years at Newburyport High School before Triton was built. The switch to our own regional school meant smaller classes and a new identity. Many of us had been friends since kindergarten.
After graduation, I had taken a “gap year” of working, then moved on to college, never to permanently return to my hometown. I married, traveled the world, divorced, came “home” to America and moved on with my life. The ties from childhood had slowly unraveled. Though I had attended the first reunion, on the anniversary of ten years, I had not kept in touch with anyone from that phase of my life. As I walked toward the registration table, it occurred to me that I didn’t recognize a single person. While I loved that the name badges bore our photos from the year book, they did little to help my racing mind place those faces with the smiles that greeted me. Jim, former captain of the football team, greeted me with a warm embrace. He beamed and said I was one of the “lost” classmates he had been charged with finding. I have had two different last names since graduation and many addresses, so this was not an easy task. When I entered the Ballroom, a petite woman turned and greeted me with shock and delight. Sue, a friend since grade school hugged me and said, “I would know you anywhere!”
Suddenly the years dropped away, I peered into faces and saw younger versions of the adults smiling and laughing. Memories flooded back and crazy escapades rushed to mind. There were solemn moments, names were mentioned and I learned who was there in spirit only. We grilled each other on the whereabouts of those who couldn’t make it. Conversation flowed so easily as we filled in the blanks; Where do you live? Do you have kids? Grandkids? How are your siblings and parents? What have you been doing all these years?
I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of jealousy of those who had stayed in touch over the years and kept those friendships strong. There was a sense of camaraderie and permanence in those bonds. They, perhaps, saw the changes life wrought as more subtle; easier to reconcile. I saw a huge leap from the rebellious youth of the seventies to the mature parents and grandparents before me now. We had all started out with dreams and expectations of how we would live our lives and change the world. Listening to my classmates forty years later, I realized we triumphed in ways we never imagined when we tossed our mortar boards in the air that day in June of 1973.