A sense of nostalgia? A sense of what might have been? A sense of missed opportunities? No matter how wonderful and interesting our lives have been, once we get into the later years, there's something beguiling about first loves and class reunions.
Doubt if there's one amongst us that can't remember that first kiss or whatever else! And certainly memories of high school, while sometimes painful, seem to achieve an almost mystical glow after many years. We remember the music, how the gymnasium looked decorated for the prom, and reflect on people we were crazy about and some we weren't so crazy about. Then comes the invitation to the reunion. A friend of mine told me that she was sure that most people had two agendas in mind when they attended a reunion: (1) to let everyone knew they were still alive; and (2) to show everyone they'd made it! She was also certain that people who had not "made it," never attended reunions.
She may be right. A friend of mine whose husband left her for another woman knew he and his new wife would be attending the reunion. She lost 20 pounds, had plastic surgery, and numerous consultations with make-up artists, personal shoppers, and hair stylists. She had one goal in mind -- to look better than her ex-husband's present wife. Was it worth it? To her it was. She was certain she looked better.
Then there's the guy who was always in trouble in school. You remember -- the one who couldn't sit still, never turned his homework in on time, and barely graduated. But funny thing happened on his way to his first million. He found something he loved to do and was very good at it, obviously. He rented a limo for the event, bought his wife an expensive fur coat (come on, we're living in Southern California!), and a "knuckle duster" ring. He wanted everyone to know he'd "made it." And in his mind, and a lot of others, he had.
One of the most poignant memories I have is something that happened an hour before a 25th high school reunion. Several people who had graduated with my husband met in the cocktail lounge of the hotel where the reunion was being held. Alum walked in, turned to one of the woman and said, "Susie, it's so good to see you. You know, every time I think of you, I remember how you wet your pants in fourth grade." Susie stood up, said "My mother told me I shouldn't have come," and left. What a waste. I imagine that a lot of things have happened to Susie during the years from fourth grade to the 25th reunion, but in her mind, she'll always be sure that people remember her for something that happened when she was nine years old.
Blended families and rediscovered first loves are often a result of the class reunion. Or maybe it's a chance encounter with someone you knew and cared deeply about many years ago. First loves are pretty powerful. I just read a wonderful book by Shawn Inmon, Both Sides Now. It tells the story of a young man and woman who meet in high school, fall in love, and are forced apart by the woman's mother. Several decades later he pulls into a fast food drive-in window and sees her inside, working a second job. They reconnect, marry and certainly seem to be living happily ever after. It's a wonderful heart-warming read. Synchronicity at its best!
The downside of class reunions is that after a few years people change. And the longer the time since the graduation, the more they change -- some might call it aging! I've been to a couple with my husband and no one knew anyone. People go in high spirits thinking that it's going to be "kumbaya" memory time, but in fact, more time is spent looking at name tags than is spent looking at faces.
And why is it there seems to be a certain number of "nieces" at these events? You see a lot more "nieces" than you do "nephews." I've always wondered about that. But I think our reunion days are over. Spending a lot of money not to be remembered or noticed is not a very good return on an investment. Think I could have done better at the track!
The one thing I've learned after attending a few of these is that after a couple of drinks that first love begins to look just like he or she did way back when. And if they're single now, that can be a dicey situation. Reunions remind me of a popular bumper sticker, "Friends don't let friends drive drunk." Think one should be made up that says "Friends make sure spouses go to reunions!"