One last look back on the past year:
Reflections on a Reunion
A few remembered everyone. Everyone remembered at least a few. We insisted a couple guests never even attended our school, clearly there just to crash a good party.
Some couldn’t be identified without our scrutiny of a nametag. Several retained a hint of their former selves. A few looked inconceivably young or simply damn good. We empathized and sympathized with the heavier, the grayer, the balding, because that comprised nearly all of us. We tried not to begrudge those who looked far better than we did.
Most appeared to have gotten through life with a few hiccups. Some flourished in lucrative careers or long, secure marriages. A handful hadn't fared so well. We made small talk with them before edging away, uncertain how to respond to their stories of misery and grief.
Several still live within blocks of our old school. Many converged upon the nearby suburbs. Others scattered to the coasts or to far-off homes in Germany or Australia. Those who remained midwesterners felt thankful to have family and old friends nearby, yet envied the more adventurous.
We made each other smile with high school tales of classroom pranks, football wins and unsanctioned parties. Some hungered to return to those days. Others were grateful to move on.
Eleven among us have died. Few remaining were spared the loss of a close classmate. Nearly everyone has also lost a mother, a father or even both. A number have parents who are ailing or impaired. All of us wished we’d appreciated them more.
Some are still raising young children. Several are grandparents. The majority of our children are grown, or nearly grown. We who are empty-nesters nodded in recognition at each others' contradictory sentiments of both weepiness and relief.
Most who were remembered as reckless or wild teenagers somehow morphed into respectable or more conservative adults. Others never made that transition. Nearly all of us still feel sixteen in our hearts.
Very few left early. Many stuck around until we were forced to leave. A good number continued the conversation and camaraderie at a nearby bar, staying late. As the bartender announced last-call, we disregarded the toll it would take the next day on our not-so-sixteen-year-old bodies.
And as we wandered across the parking lot, returning to our cars and to our middle-aged lives, two things remained clear.
We all changed. And we all remained the same.