A couple of likelihoods occurred to me this weekend over the course of our class reunion. First, the small-town upbringing (and by small I mean less than a thousand people in our town of Findlay) we experienced is endangered if not extinct. Our school became too small to function well enough, and even now that it’s part of a consolidated district, it’s still too small. The legacy of this political decision – to maintain small independent school districts through property taxes rather than go to county schools in rural areas (unlike in Iowa or Indiana) – is even now being felt in Illinois. It’s but one piece in the woeful puzzle of state debt and dysfunction. Not that I want to go on a rant…
Listening to those old stories again made me appreciate my uncommon childhood all the more. We were allowed to grow and explore at our own pace there, to try different activities, sports, and interests without pressure to specialize so early. We did farm work in the summer and hung out together mostly in blissful ignorance of cliqueishness and social snobbery. Did this mean many of us were naive and under-prepared when we struck out into the wider world? Probably. Yet most of us have done OK.
Another likelihood concerning those old high school stories – you pulled some embarrassing stupid crap as a teen, and there’s no one like your old pals to remind you. In my case, a mixture of poor impulse control and a need for attention led to some epic stupidity. Thank God my parents were both patient and persistent. It sort of makes you want to jump in your DeLorean, go back 20-odd years and slap your high school self in the back of the head. Hard.
I suspect this is why some people avoid reunions. They don’t want to recall who they were, or they don’t want to be reminded of where they’ve been since. And when you’re with your high school friends, that nostalgia and tendency to mentally retrace your path is inevitable.
For me it was also a reminder of how your definition of friendship changes over time. A lot of these people were very good friends, and yet you lose touch and don’t hang out anymore. Does this mean we no longer matter to each other? I hope not – it’s just another consequence of the small-town legacy. Instead we follow each other on Facebook, talk about our kids, and hopefully don’t feel too guilty about not calling very often. Maybe we make a little extra effort to get together and spend some time as our schedules allow. Maybe we try to break our own routines and deal with a little inconvenience in an attempt to connect.
For me, and I suspect for those who attended, the reunion was definitely worth the effort. It was good to see everyone again. A simple sentiment, yet no less true and accurate for its simplicity.