My 20 – year high school reunion is next month and I have been reliving some of the highs and lows of the experience. Hard to believe that it has been 20 years since high school. Some days I can almost convince myself I’m still a gangly 15-year-old with acne and a distinct lack of facial hair. Now the facial hair I do have has quite a bit of gray scattered throughout, so when I look in the mirror I can believe it’s been 20 years.
I went back after 15 years, when I was searching for some kind of anchor or foothold I had been missing back then. And I did reconnect with several people I knew, but it was transitory. It wasn’t solid. But this is 20 years. Everyone will be there, and I am at once both elated and frightened over that.
Everyone remembers high school differently. Some recall only the good parts, the “best years of my life” that is often bandied about by middle-aged people who need to relive their glory years, the metaphorical heyday. While others remember the bullying and tears. Still others reflect on how invisible they felt even in the midst of so many others. I was in this latter group.
Don’t get me wrong. I had a small network of people I would have called friends for lack of a better term, and they were separated into black, white, and other. Not by me, but by them. My black friends were courtesy of my skin color and my sister. My white friends were because we shared the nerd trait. And the others played table tennis with me. Back then those were the lines, but perhaps looking back they were only in my head.
Now, I went to a boarding school for those first two years so the connections I did make were more substantial because we all lived in this insular community together. We were our own barbers, and cooks, and even monitors. We were roommates, and classmates, and we even worked together at our various campus jobs. So going back is more about revisiting a lifestyle and the connections that maintained it than just a regular reunion.
Besides, it was a Christian school, and it still is, so returning means remembering all the rules and the religion. It means praying and singing hymns and going to church and not buying anything on the Sabbath. And even though I’m not the same person who did those things back then, I know what going back means. I’m okay with that. It’s not just going back. It’s giving back. Because, you see, there’s magic in going back, in walking those paths again, and in talking to those same people. But it’s not a time machine. It’s instead simply a reminder that things and people may change, but spirit remains the same.
For me it has actually been 22 years because I left at the halfway mark, but when people ask me where I went to school I always say Blue Mountain Academy. It’s easy to say, too, because my other wasn’t anywhere near being a community, it wasn’t close-knit, and the spirit was missing. In fact, while I remember every single person from Blue Mountain, I would be hard-pressed to name very many people from my other school. If they are having a reunion, I know nothing about it, and I wouldn’t go anyway. There’s just something about being somewhere where I didn’t feel I was just a number.
We’ve started a Facebook group, too, where there have been numerous back-and-forths since October all about memories, new experiences, and how crazy it’s going to be when we get back together. It’s amazing to me too how many of my classmates actually remember me and are excited to see me again. Perhaps I wasn’t as invisible as I thought. And that makes me smile. I’m looking forward to it.