It was more than 20 years ago that I last haunted the halls (or smoked in the stairwells) of Raritan High School. Recently, a large portion of my class headed to the Jersey shore for a monumental reunion. Twenty years. How did that happen?
I’ve never been one of those people to lament the end of high school; never thought of them as my “glory days,” but I certainly didn’t hate it, either. I was looking forward to catching up, though since the dawning of Facebook, a lot of catching up has already taken place. I booked a flight, found a dress that hid what’s changed, and accentuated what’s held up alright, and headed east.
It turned out to be a lot less like catching up and simply more like picking up where we’d left off. Aside from the obvious physical changes (“Stop staring at my bald head!” one old friend yelled as I went in for a hug), the room that night was filled with a bunch of goofy 17 year-olds who happened to be walking around in bodies nearing middle age.
Snippets of personal stories since graduation emerged, but no one seemed very interested in talking about the things that make life hard sometimes, the trials we have all been through, how the ravages of time affected us. We just wanted to laugh, to dance, to be right there in that surreal moment where it could have just as easily been 1990, for the way we carried on.
For me, and I think for many in attendance, time has only made the memories of high school sweeter. Truly, we had no idea how good we had it. Young, fearless, not yet disillusioned by much of anything at all, we laughed heartily, we challenged ourselves mightily, we loved fiercely. Seeing the people with whom I shared those experiences brought back the intensity of it all – things I’d forgotten or had downplayed in my mind over time.
I returned home to the west coast tired, happy, and sad that it couldn’t have lasted just a little longer. Would I want to be 17 again? Not a chance. But sharing an evening with those with whom I knew before I had aches, responsibilities, wrinkles? I really hope we get to do that again. A twenty-fifth anyone?