Our friend Max, his mother, daughter, and Lilly in Oak Park. Max will not tell you if you order a chicken accidentally.
This summer seems to be the season of reunions for me. So far I have returned to Spain to have a reunion with my carefree youth; I had a reunion with Max, a Dutch friend Jeff and I made when I had an internship in The Netherlands; I've been to Jeff's 30th class reunion; and my 30th class reunion is next week.
The reunion in Spain didn't go so well. I showed up but my carefree youth was nowhere to be found. You really cannot go back. You will not be able to recapture the heady, halcyon days of backpacking through Europe and making out with complete strangers when you are with your husband and your children. Well, you could try, but it would look so bad. And all those young men who used to "echar piropos" (shout poetic compliments at you) are only doing that to young ladies who could be your daughters. It's not that you aren't attractive to them, it's worse. You are invisible. As Coffee Friend 2 put it so succinctly, "You can go back to places from your youth but in the end you will just feel old as shit."
Our reunion with Max went much better. He came with his 87 year old mother and 12 year old daughter and we had fun visiting and touring around Chicago. We also had fun reminiscing about travel mishaps we shared in our twenties like the time in Berlin when I thought I ordered a coffee cake to go with my coffee at 10:00 am and instead got an entire chicken with potatoes. Why, I asked him as I did all those years ago, did you allow me to order a chicken with my coffee? Well, he responded, you seemed so very sure about it. It's true, I was always reluctant to ask for help when ordering in a foreign language. We also remembered the time Jeff ordered a Gin and Tonic with lemon in a Dutch bar and was served a glass of gin, a glass of tonic, and a glass of lemonade.
Jeff's class reunion was fun. I have a working knowledge of the key players in his class and it was fun to see that none of the cast of characters disappointed me: the queen of the hop is still the queen of Jackson, Michigan, the king is now a successful attorney in Arizona. Everyone else looked pretty good but I suppose almost without exception the only people showing up at a 30 year reunion are those who have aged well.
For those of you who still have big class reunions ahead of you, I offer some preview of what you can expect:
10 year reunion: You realize that high school and the pecking order really was bullshit. Some of the "cool people" got knocked up and married losers. Some of the losers are doing extremely well on Wall Street. For the most part though, everyone is faring as you'd expect. No one looks much older. You will talk to some people you would never have dared talk to in high school but it's not exactly as if you are suddenly buddies with the "cool kids". This is the first time in your life you realize that what is a very clear, unforgettable memory to you is most likely an event that is completely forgotten by the other people involved--this leads to a lot of conversations that start with , "Don't you remember that time....?" and a person looking at you as if you are crazy. Don't worry, the same thing will happen to you.
20 year reunion: Some people are starting to age badly but for the most part you all look pretty young. You stop asking people what they do and ask them how they are. You actually listen when they talk about their kids because you have some now too. There are very few surprises: if the queen of the prom is now fat, ugly, and divorced she is not going to make an appearance. Unfortunately for her, her mere absence leads to much speculation that she is probably fat, ugly, and divorced. You are having real trouble remembering who the cool kids were. This surprises you. You will remember someone very well--you knew her since kindergarten, remember where she lived, her parents, siblings, and pets but you cannot remember one single conversation or event you shared with her. However, you will remember very clearly how she made you feel and the kind of person she was.
30 year reunion: When you first walk in the room you will be SHOCKED by how old everyone in the room is. Then it will dawn on you that they are just normal looking 48 year olds. Some look better than others but you all look OLD for the first time. Careers and status are totally unimportant. Most of the conversation centers on where you live now, what your kids are up to, and remembering various teachers in your mutual past. You realize that by the time we all meet up in heaven we really won't care who was who in high school. At the end of the evening as you leave, no one looks very old to you anymore. They just look like a grown-up version of their high school selves.
If you have a reunion of any kind this summer, remember, to paraphrase Maya Angelou, no one remembers what you did or what you said but they will remember how you made them feel. So make someone feel good--you will not be forgotten