If you’ve read my blog posts before, you may have picked up on the fact that I often think about how quickly time passes by.

Time is on my mind again, as I approach my twentieth high school reunion. When I received a notification on Facebook that some of my old classmates were interested in planning something to mark this milestone, I was surprised—mostly because we haven’t had a reunion since we graduated. (Actually, I found out later that there was an attempt to plan a tenth, but no one knew about it, and only a handful of people attended as a result.)

The response on Facebook was positive, and most people seem excited at the thought of attending.  Again, this is somewhat surprising, since many of us haven’t seen each other in two decades. What surprises me the most, though, is the comical banter that’s been exchanged through our group Facebook page, private messages that have bounced back and forth, and during our planning meetings (yes, I ended up on the committee). It’s been more amusing, and the effort more collaborative, than anything I ever remember us doing as a class while we were in school. (Surely, if we were a close-knit class, we would’ve had more reunions in a twenty-year span, don’t you think?)

Mental pictures of our old selves were brought back to the present, as we discussed and visualized the “good old days”. For example, the way some of us used to dress: one classmate wore a black trench coat EVERY single day. Another always came to school dressed in tie-dye.  In trying to remember who was whom, someone would make a reference, “…remember, she used to date so-and-so”.

While we talked, I could recall most of what was tossed around in those conversations, but while some of it seemed so vivid, it also felt so distant, almost as if I had watched it happen from afar instead of actually being there at the time.

So much time and space is between now and then—the who-we-are and who-we-used-to-be. How do you put twenty years of experiences and memories into words? I don’t think you can do them enough justice on paper, but I’m sure we’ve all had our share of relationships, marriages, divorces, pregnancies, and difficult labors. Some of us have had to care for sick children, parents, or grandparents. We’ve laughed and danced and celebrated milestone birthdays. We’ve cried and buried friends and family. We’ve experienced college, trade schools, joined the military, the work force, lost jobs, and learned how to pay the bills, and maybe in some cases child support. We’ve been adults for so long that the days of our “high school childhood” seem so distant—something we can barely relate to now. But, at the same time, we look at the invitation in front of us and think: How did this happen, how could twenty years have gone by so quickly? We posted pictures of a planning meeting on the group Facebook page, and one classmate posted this commented in reply: “Who are all of those old farts in those pictures?” 

Our family moved a lot when I was a kid. We were in and out of the school district from which I graduated several times before we finally settled there again in the middle of my sophomore year, so I can’t relate to as many of the memories (especially the older ones) as some of my classmates. Maybe that’s why I never thought much about a reunion or cared much that we didn’t have one before now.  Or, maybe it’s because I’ve always felt like I was born a couple of decades too late. If I believed in reincarnation, I might have a theory that I died as a young teenager right after a sock hop dance where I wore a poodle skirt and drank a chocolate milkshake from a “Y”-shaped glass, while long hair dangled above my back from a ponytail that swayed to the music.  This, of course, would have been the life I had before I was a toddler in the seventies who wondered why my parents wore bell-bottoms and drove a mint-green punch buggy.

Regardless, if someone would’ve told me twenty years ago that I would be helping to plan this reunion, I’d have said they were nuts. But here I am.  Maybe I’ve found myself willing to help because of time. Because although we’ve all spent what has been the second half of our lives doing our own thing and getting caught up in our own separate lives, there’s something to be said for history. Because, why not, it could be fun. So far, the planning has been.

In school, we were thrown together, part of a group only by default. We sat at our commencement and thought we were adults, but perception is not reality. There are no words in a valedictorian’s speech that can make an eighteen-year-old understand life the way living it out actually does.

I hope the most valuable lessons we’ve all learned since we last sat in a gymnasium together is that life is a gift, that we each live it in our own unique way, and that as compassionate human beings we should respect and support each other in our triumphs and challenges. We’re all different, and what works for one, won’t appeal to another, but that’s okay. I hope we are mentoring our children—the younger generation of our society—to help them understand some of this, even though we know they won’t fully be able to comprehend it until they are our age. And I hope we are holding onto respect for the generations ahead of us, for we still have a lot to learn and live through compared to them.

I’ve found myself wondering if more and more classes aren’t having class reunions anymore. I wonder if Facebook, for example, has taken away the necessity to do so. While it has helped to locate class members and connect us through pictures and status updates, it’s not really the same as getting into a room and talking to the person next to you with a drink in your hand and laughter ringing in your ears.

Besides, the next twenty years will, no doubt, fly by again, and soon we will be staring at an invitation for a fortieth class reunion, and we’ll be wondering: How did this happen? Where did the last forty years go? And how did I get this old? All of this will be running through our minds, while the generations ahead of are trying to tell us, “You’re not that old”, and the generations behind us are still trying to figure out the stuff they haven’t lived through yet.