I mainly associate reunions with schools, traditional schools like high school and college. College reunions are generally held on campus, offering an opportunity to visit old hangouts with old friends. They also involve fundraising, often an aggressive, competitive push to reach some dollar goal and ‘beat’ the class ahead of you. That’s a lot of one-up-man-ship energy.
The same sort of energy seems to dominate the wine drinkers and cheese nibblers who stand about in the campus venue. Where you work, where you live, where you have a vacation home, where your children go to school and by implication, what you earn.
I sound snarky and I’m sure that there are people who truly enjoy re-uniting and talking about their college days. Maybe because I left school for a few years and graduated with one class, having started with a different one… I don’t attend either class’s reunions, even though I live extremely nearby. There were years, early on, when I would have been interested in getting together with the women who were in my freshman dorm, but I guess I didn’t do much ‘bonding’ beyond that first year.
High school reunions, in my experience, are equally disturbing. I was very involved in high school life, back in the day: newspaper, yearbook and a mess of clubs. You would think I might be really excited about reuniting with my classmates; or at least some of the 750+ graduates in my class. Oh, I went to the ten-year reunion. My reaction: it was like we were back in the cafeteria, with everyone sitting with their old clique. The beautiful people were wearing leather pants and diamond ear studs and most everyone else was sitting with their safe groups and just watching the beautiful be beautiful. There we were in some hotel function room, with lots of drinking going on.
The 20th reunion was even stranger. As I walked toward the function room in another hotel, I saw ahead of me a room filled with the mothers of my high school classmates: women in cocktail gowns. “What are they doing here?”, I wondered. Come to find out, they were us. My classmates, for the most part, had become their parents and I don’t know when I have ever felt more out of place. I was dressed incorrectly, for one thing, in silk pants and a long silk tunic, with sensible (not spike heeled) shoes. Awkward.
As a non-drinker, I could find almost nothing to talk to anyone about – it had been too long since our years together to reminisce and I had no dazzling plums to parade. I had finished college, later trained as a furniture maker, after 12 years in that field I had returned to graduate school for education. I didn’t even have a child yet! The competition for highest number of grandchildren had begun and I was out of step.
Okay, so why am I writing about all of this, anyway? Water under the bridge and sour grapes too, maybe. What I wanted to talk about was the intriguing thought of having reunions with old friends, outside of the traditional, organized framework.
Who do I fantasize seeing? For the first 12 years of my life, I was part of a neighborhood group who put together a play every summer. Our senior member, eight years older than I, was writer/producer/director, with a lot of theater savvy and a wicked (in Boston speak) sense of humor. We practiced for weeks; then the plays were presented with full costuming, sets, lights and production numbers in our two-car garage. The driveway was filled with dozens and eventually scores of people who brought their own lawn chair seating to watch the show. Proceeds went to charity.
I would love to gather the members of The Overlook Gang and share our memories of those innocent and raucous summer days. That would have meaning for me.
In my twenties I lived with a group of women in a house next door to a house of men. We were consciously ‘political’ about our housing choices and over the course of five years we grew up together. There was a little turnover, naturally. Some of us are still in touch sporadically, but I think it would be grand to sit down to a meal together – as we did so often in those years – and talk about then and now. Unlike the more formal reunions I mentioned above, I don’t think there would be much, if any, competitive energy in the room with us. Personally, I would love to cook for all of them again.
The sensation that I get, when I think of these and a couple of other groups of people from my past with whom I would enjoy reuniting, is lovely. It is sort of a tingle of excitement combined with a sense of safety and meaning; a chance to remember who I was and renew those values. It’s a really good feeling. I guess that’s what a reunion could mean for me.
Your thoughts and experiences…?