Sometimes, it’s just nice to get away, no matter where I happen to be heading, and that was part of the reason I was looking forward to driving to Kansas last weekend for my 40th high school reunion. I was also looking forward to seeing some of my old classmates, and the chance to spend a little extra time with some good friends who live near that area and who I don’t get to see nearly as often as I would like to. Still, it was a high school reunion, and that’s just not the same thing as heading off to a vacation on the beach. A reunion involves making the effort to reconnect with people I haven’t seen in years, and engaging in small talk with lots of people for an extended time. For an introvert like me, that’s a little intimidating, no matter much I enjoy someone’s company.
I also had a vivid memory of my 20th high school reunion, which was the first reunion I had attended since graduating high school. My high school was in a small town that hosted the County Fair each year, so it was a tradition for the classes to hold their reunions on the weekend of the fair, and for each class to participate in the fair’s parade by riding on their class float. It was hot sitting on an open float in the summer sun, which meant there was also a tradition for each class to toss water balloons at those sitting on the other class floats. I won’t bore you with the details, but at some point near the end of the parade, I tried to grab a water balloon and promptly fell off the float, landing hard on the asphalt street. I scraped the skin off the palms of my hands, had a bleeding head wound, and suffered some very serious damage to my pride. I know there are people who dream of making a big impression at their class reunion, and I certainly made one. Trust me, it’s over-rated.
Luckily, this reunion was uneventful, as I shed no blood and had no need for medical care, most probably because they no longer have the classes participate in the parade. I managed not to embarrass myself (at least as far as I know, but there might be photos that haven’t surfaced yet), and had a great time catching up with old friends and acquaintances. Everyone talked to most everyone else, and unlike the class reunions we always see on television shows, the tone was relaxed, friendly, and casual.
I think one of the the best things about growing older is how most of us shed the need to try to impress each other, which means that when we do gather with classmates we haven’t seen in years, we don’t ask about their accomplishments, try to gauge their material wealth, or scrutinize their appearance. We simply ask how they are doing, and genuinely hope that they are happy with their lives, no matter what their circumstances. And if they are struggling in some way, we offer sympathy and support, rather than judgement. Maybe that kind of honesty and acceptance only comes with age, I really don’t know. But if so, it sure is worth the wait.