I finally did it. After missing my 10 year high school reunion, and my 20 year high school reunion, I finally went to my 30 year high school reunion. Yes, Milwaukie High School, Class of 1980.
I never really felt much of a pull to go to a reunion before. I had been a transfer student at Mil High, arriving my junior year when my parents uprooted me from my funky Hawthorne Blvd. life in Portland to suburbia. At the time I thought my life was over. How would I possibly make new friends...what about my old friends...and what the hell did people in Milwaukie do for fun when they lived so faaar away from Portland? To a 15-year old girl, it seemed like the worst thing that could possibly happen to me. I was wrong.
I actually found Milwaukie High School to be more my speed. There were fewer students and less tension (there were lots of racial issues at my former high school which escalated into knivings in the cafeteria and beatings in the bathrooms...no wonder my parents were eager to move). The students were less cliquish, the teachers less traumatized...it was a bit of Norman Rockwell, it seemed.
I made a few friends...not the easiest task when everyone else has been friends since kindergarten. As my life is today, my life was back then...I was friendly with everyone, but preferred to have just a few close friends, and I made friends with boys easier than I did with girls.
Right after high school, I got pregnant, got married and moved to California (in that order). My life was...well...challenging. After 10 years in California I divorced, got remarried and moved to New York. My life had changed so drastically over the years, I really hadn't kept in touch too much with anyone, and I just didn't see the point in going to my reunions.
But this time, I was back in Portland. I was feeling nostalgic...I was curious...and so I decided, this time I would go to my reunion, but it was not without a bit of trepidation. Would I remember anyone? Would they remember me? Would anyone I knew be there, or would I be surrounded by relative strangers? My husband, Eric, was kind enough to come with me....our plan was to make an appearance, eat dinner, and unless we were having a really good time, leave early.
High school crush, Brent and I. He's an accomplished writer and incredibly sweet guy now.
We arrived at the reunion and walked to the registration table. Everyone was hugging and laughing...I was holding Eric's hand and whispering in his ear..."Yup...I don't know any of these people". We got in line, I got my name tag, turned around, and there to greet me was, Brent, a boy (obviously now a grown man) I had dated in high school. He looked at Eric, asked if it was ok to hug me, and gave me a warm hug and told me he was glad I was there. I immediately felt relieved...and welcome.
Inside I ran into Denise, and Tina...two of my favorite girlfriends in high school. I was so glad to see them...after all the years, I still felt a connection to them. I met others I knew...like Mike who was such a sweetheart, and Diane (she was pretty, smart, popular and nice back then...still is today), and Paul, another boy I dated, who always was, and still is, the life of the party. I loved seeing them all..seeing how they'd changed, or stayed the same..and laughing about old times and sharing our current lives with each other.
There were the popular kids, there were the unknown kids...some reverting to their old roles and place in the hierarchy of high school...others finding their new niche and place in the group. But overall...an air of friendliness and the camaraderie that comes with being in a group of people you've shared an intense part of your life with was present. I now understood why people go to these things. It's not to relive your past glories or revenge your past hurts...it's more about being with a group of people who have a shared history....and about feeling a bit of the resurgence of the youthful spark that comes with recalling a moment in time, so long ago.