This weekend was my ten-year high school class reunion. It was, in a word, surreal. Seeing friends you haven’t kept in contact with. Seeing people you’ve known since both of you were five years old, and now they have a five-year-old of their own. Seeing people whose faces seem vaguely familiar, but you can’t for the life of you remember their names, or why you knew them once. Having the same conversation a hundred times - where you live, what you do, what happened in between then and now.
The official reunion activities were fun. Friday night was the Homecoming game against our arch-rival, Brentwood. The Rebels won, but most of us were too busy chatting at the Class of ‘96 tent to notice. We took a tour of the new building (the building in which we attended high school has been torn down and replaced with a lovely, new facility.) I had brunch with Jeff on Saturday morning, then went to Lynn and Kris’s pre-party that afternoon. Saturday night’s official reunion soiree was at an emergentish Southern Baptist Convention-affiliated church that allows groups who rent out its space to have a cash bar. (Yes, you read that right.) There was dancing and food and plenty of time to talk. Someone decided we should listen only to music from high school, which was predictably awful, but what do you do?
Have the same conversation you’ve already had with ninety-nine other people, that’s what. What are you up to? Where do you live? Who did you marry? How old are your kids.
It's a pretty impressive list of answers. Here are what members of my high school class (416 strong, about 150 of whom showed up for the reunion) are/do:
- Research fellow in neurology at Harvard Medical School (well, okay, if that’s the best you can do)
- Professional wrestler
- Working at the Second City in Chicago
- Editing films starring Michael W. Smith
- Radio personality
- Host of the Top Twenty Countdown on CMT
- Director of Baptist Student Ministries
- Learning Coptic and doing a one-man Commedia-del-Arte show
- Fronting a hipster bluegrass band in Portland
- Holding back the levees in Vicksburg for the Army Corps of Engineers
Other people are pediatricians and teachers and professors and small business owners and all kinds of stuff. I don’t know if it’s that our class was really that smart, or that just the successful people wanted to come to the reunion. Blair told me on Friday night about a couple of guys who are living at home with their parents, working dead-end jobs (Blair, for the record, looks just like his father, who was my pediatrician. Scared me half to death.). I’m sure they’re not the only ones. Other people have kids and couldn’t travel, some couldn’t get off work; still others have traveled the world, or fell in love with a Spanish beauty and moved to Madrid. It happens.
Several of us won prizes just for being who we are. Betsey got the award for best contribution to society for her work to cure prostate cancer. Emily won for being married the longest. I won for most interesting place/most countries visited. Jared won for longest distance traveled to the reunion, for coming from Salt Lake City. Matt was upset that “probation officer” was deemed a more interesting job than “clown/theologian.” I said he peaked at valedictorian and it's all downhill from there.
Then the music started and it was funny and awful - all stuff from high school, most of it not good a'tall. We decided to leave when the DJ put on “Baby Got Back,“ and the radio personality from our class started rapping it himself. Our group decided to hightail it to a restaurant, then a few of us went to the Waffle House in honor of our high school days, when the Waf was the only place in Franklin open after 10pm. It hasn’t changed a bit.
Franklin has. And people have changed. The guys are taller and heavier and several are going bald. The women don’t look different, but we’re older and wiser and much more secure in ourselves for the most part.
We were lucky. In my crowd, and, for the most part, in my class, high school was not a drama-laden nightmare. We were all friends. We had lots of fun. The same could be said of our reunion. I had the same superficial conversation over and over again, but there wasn‘t any lingering animosity like you sometimes hear about. It was fun.
We hung out late Friday and Saturday night at McCreary’s and Beethoveen’s and the Waf, telling old stories and laughing about things I’d completely forgotten. Like Katie’s birthday "celebration" at the Rose Bowl - Emily said the word, “sundial,” on Friday, and we all died laughing. The food fight on the last day of senior year (for the record, Matt does not have a scar from when Betsey stabbed him with the whipped cream can).
David told the story about the time he and some other guys went over to Michelle’s to spy on her slumber party. They were disappointed to learn (from peeking in the windows, mind you) that high school girls’ slumber parties don’t generally involve tickle fights or bon-bons. But they’d brought bottle rockets to set off to scare everyone, and, of course, David accidentally fired one into the American flag hanging outside of Michelle’s house. The flag promptly burst into flames, and Michelle’s father (a veteran) came out on the porch, and, well, you can probably guess the rest.
I’d completely forgotten that story, and how Matthew (not to be confused with Matt) and Goofy and Ford used to speed down Old Natchez late at night with no lights on, just to see how much they could spook themselves, and so many other stories. I’d completely forgotten that David is nuts - he’s currently working on a perpetual motion machine and some other crazy attempts to, as Matt put it, punch a hole in the time-space continuum. Some things never change. “His only problem,” Matt said, “is friction.” “As I learned in physics class,” said Betsey, as we all tried really hard not to laugh. (Yeah. Okay, so we were the smart kids. Matthew said "geek squad," but that wasn't fair. We were cool enough to see hip movies and listen to good music.)
The trip was so worth it, if for nothing else than getting to see really old friends I never see anymore. Benny and Jared, the guys I grew up with (and, as a result of that, actually have a scar from an incident involving a bb gun when we were fifteen), are grown men, deacons and in ministry. My best friends are all over the country, living life and having good times and bad. People I forgot existed are back in Franklin, running businesses and doing well.
We were so lucky in high school. So lucky to have parents who loved us and friends who laughed and cried with us. We are so lucky now to have friends who knew us when we were children, when we were awkward sixth-graders, when we grew up and moved away, and who, after all of that, can still be called friends. Love surrounded us on every side back then. We were young and stupid and we didn’t know what to call it and certainly never said it to each other, but it was love. And it surrounds us still today.