It felt strange and familiar at the same time.
The bustle, the crowd, the jumbled noise of several dozen people talking at once, these I knew. Even the faces in the crowd were much the same as they had been.
But that had been 20 years ago. Now, it seemed like every third “hello” required a flip through the mental Rolodex.
“Hi ….” (Flip, flip, flip.) “Hi, Justin! Man, you haven’t changed at all!”
Yeah, it was reunion time for Big Blue, the Longmont High class of ’91. Some of us had kept in touch. A lot of us weren’t quite sure what to expect. I mean, the last time we’d been together, LHS was still a football dynasty, had no freshmen, hadn’t yet rebuilt the school down to the smallest floor tile.
Facebook helped, of course. We had some idea of what to expect. Still, what if we had nothing in common face-to-face? Worse yet, what if the memories were too strong – if some of the jealousies and cliques that make up the teenaged life had survived?
For me, high school had been a huge improvement over the bullying and harassment of my seventh and eighth grade years. But I’d still been in an odd spot. A nice guy, but no one’s boyfriend; around, but not really in. Even with a lot of close friends in choir and drama, even with my work on the school newspaper bumping me up against segments I wouldn’t have normally known, it still sometimes felt like I was on the edge, looking in.
Maybe every teen feels that way, that perception that everyone else has it down and you’re the one who’s awkward. After all, what context do you have?
But 20 years later, I didn’t feel I was at the edge anymore.
I felt like I was at the crossroads.
The friendships were still there. The awkwardness was mostly gone. Any invisible walls seemed to be a lot lower than I remembered. And I suddenly realized why.
We had nothing to prove.
In high school, you’re still trying to define yourself, still trying to build who you are. All of us had had 20 years to work on who we were – and in some cases, to rework on it, if the result wasn’t looking so good.
We’d found our places. For most of us, it seemed pretty good.
There was the wild and crazy guy who’d settled down to become a marine biologist in Hawaii.
There was the former school newspaper editor, now a minister back East.
I already knew that one of my oldest friends had become a brilliant photographer up in Denver. But I didn’t know about the one working in the Middle East … or the one designing city parks … or the one who’d become a working actor and playwright, grabbing hold of his dream with both hands.
The picnic may have been the best part – the chance to see the fathers and mothers and grownups we’d become, as kids bustled around the place, playing with each other as we once had.
One of my classmates – the playwright and actor – put it best.
“I always kind of knew this, but I realized it in spades yesterday,” he wrote on Facebook. “We had a nice graduating class. … (S)omething was in the water by the time we all hit 16, because you’re all still awesome.”
Yeah. I guess we are. Friends then. Family now.
Not a bad experience at all.
Even if it did leave us feeling Blue.