Most of the time, I’m able to forget just exactly how old I am. I’ve mastered the art of not looking at my entire face in my make-up mirror, and simply focusing on whatever part of my face I’m actually putting the make up on. I keep my car radio tuned to an “oldies” station so I can keep right on listening to the music of my youth, and I choose clothes that are loose-fitting enough to cover all the unsightly bulges and “soft spots” I’ve acquired in recent years. One way or another, I’ve been able to maintain the self delusion that I’m not really that old, just somewhere in my mid life years and still a comfortable distance from senior citizen. And then along comes the invitation to my 40th (seriously, 40th?) high school reunion, and just like that, all my illusions about my age are cruelly shattered.
My first instinct was to simply ignore it. I know that technically, ignoring something doesn’t make it go away, but it does keep me from having to face it. (I used to fret endlessly about the spider veins on my legs until the day I decided to simply pretend they weren’t there. Although with my luck, they’ll probably decide to grow into varicose veins just to get my attention.) I also realized that if I skipped this one, my next reunion will probably be my fiftieth high school reunion, and that will be beyond scary.
And honestly, I really would like the chance to see some of my old classmates again, and to visit the small town in Kansas where I lived when I was a teenager. I feel a strong emotional connection to that town and the people I knew then, even though I only spent a small portion of my life there and wasn’t particularly good at the whole high school thing. I was a bit shy and awkward in those days, dated very little, struggled in my math classes and as for athletics, all I can say is: I tried. My main memory of participating in any kind of sport was constantly praying to God that I didn’t screw up too badly. I may not have been a particularly talented athlete, but I sure was a religious one.
I suppose the connection is simply that my classmates were people who knew me during the years when I was changing from a child to an adult, struggling to figure out who I was and what my place would be in the world, just like everyone else in my class. I think that despite all the pretensions and rigid social codes of high school, there is also something very real about the relationships we formed during what was, whether we knew it or not, a fast-changing and rather difficult time in our lives. We saw each other at our best, and also at our worst, and that’s the kind of thing which tends to form enduring bonds.
So, in a few days I’ll be heading off to my class reunion, and I’m not going to dwell too much on exactly which class reunion it is. I won’t bother to dress up or hit a medical spa for a quick Botox treatment, because what’s the point of trying to impress people who knew me when I was an awkward teenager? (Also, I hate shots.) I’m guessing that we will just talk and laugh, and have fun “remembering when.” And count ourselves lucky that we are still here, so many years after high school graduation, able and willing to gather as the Class of ’76 one more time.