Thursday, August 27, 2015

On Class Reunions and Years Gone By

This year my high school class celebrates 20 years since our graduation. Whew! That just sounds wrong to me! I am now one of the "old people" who seem to always be tagging on the phrase, "how can it be?" to every milestone, birthday, anniversary.

I'll admit, I wasn't sure I really wanted to go to this reunion. I've never been to a class reunion. Mostly, because we aren't usually in IL when the class reunions take place, but also because I just wasn't sure I really wanted to put myself in that situation. You know, the awkwardness of having people size you up and seeing if you measure up to what they thought of you back then or what they thought you would make of yourself. I imagined that I wouldn't know what to say to people, that the 20 year span would have obliterated all we once had in common. I wondered if the old cliques would still be circling, leaving me feeling a little like the odd one out. And truly, deep down, I wondered what seeing my peers would reveal to me about myself (how did I compare)... and would I like it? I used to know where I stood with this group of people, in terms of class rank and perhaps in what they thought of me. (My high school self was not one to party or date around, so there are a lot of people in my class I don't know very well because I wasn't at their social gatherings. I was probably known as a bit of a goody goody and one who studied. At the same time, we had a small school, so I was also able to play sports and be involved in lots of activities, too.)

This dinner was especially intimidating to me because The Lawyer wouldn't be with me. Nor would my cousin (and class mate), Andrew. I hadn't seen most of these people at all in the past 20 years. I'd really have to stand on my own two feet. Would I be confident in who I am? How would I feel if people questioned me about our family size (there are usually some comments!) or our decision to home educate? What was I going to say if they asked what I "do?" On the other hand, what would I ask them- after more years apart than we ever had together? Would I recognize them? Would it be awkward? Would I be able to appreciate and esteem my class mates so they felt valued?

I'm so happy to say that it was an absolutely lovely evening. It encouraged me and filled me up beyond what I ever would have expected. (Some of that is due to the extrovert in me!) I didn't recognize everyone; there were some pleasant surprises. I was struck by how beautiful these people are. Clearly, we are older. Yet, I felt at home in the same smiles and warm eyes (with gentle creases now!) that I remembered. These ladies and men are wearing the years well and it was good for me to see. Some of us look a little worse for wear, but I know there are stories of heartache, grief, loss, sleep deprivation, hard toil under the sun, the strain of raising children, losing parents, etc. . . and so each one of the people I spoke with seemed more beautiful than I remembered.

We sat around chatting about school lunches and teenage boys, of sports and spouses and things going on around town. I was struck by the sweetness of sharing the moment with these class mates and friends of mine (I use the term "friend" loosely. We had a small class of 63 students, so we were all pretty well acquainted). They are good citizens to have in their small towns. They are good parents (as much as we can be!) and they are endeavoring to do good in their homes and in their community. I was PROUD of them, proud to still be part of this group of good people who are doing so much for those around them. I heard them supporting each other (buying sausage and pancake breakfast tickets from one another) and I could tell in the way they spoke to each other that it was GOOD that these men and women had each other for support and community.  Even though I was the one in the circle who lives far away, I still felt connected to them and thankful that the people I love have these good folk close.

There wasn't much awkwardness. I was in my element, asking questions to find out all I could about these old classmates of mine. Their past 20 years were absolutely fascinating to me! I needed more time to talk to each of them! There were so many fun surprises- the couple who met online; those who met on a blind date; the farmer who just became a father (of twins!) a few weeks ago; the husband and wife who drive hours and hours to support their superstar softball athletes, the WI beer brewer, the unexpected banker with gorgeous blond wife, the ultra-successful divorced man, the newly married pair, the woman expecting her first baby this fall. With 20 years to look back over, there begins to be a pattern and a tapestry, and a making sense of some things, and surprises that maybe we should have seen coming. It gave me a glimpse of what I expect one day in heaven might be like a "big reveal"- when all the hills and valleys of our lives are laid bare and exposed for their purposes. Just this little glimpse was almost glorious. . . I had the sense that the Master had been working out His plans.

And so, the night ended and I was full of thankfulness and joy. For my best friend Kim, and all my other friends, too. For this circle of people that I was still connected to. After all these years, it was plain to me that we were still connected in some way, at some level. I'm glad to be part of this group of imperfect people who are yet striving for good. I don't quite feel that I fit in, but I do feel that somehow our strengths complement one another and we have new things to offer than we did 20 years ago. It's mysterious to me, and yet also confirms what I suspected deep down. When we look for good in others, we find it. When we truly share our lives with those around us, we are joined in some way. If there is another reunion in five years, I will be happy to visit with my class mates again.

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