I attended my 40 year high school reunion last night. It was interesting and strange. When I was a kid, we moved around a lot…but always within the Kent school district, which meant I attended most of the feeder elementary and junior high schools that funneled students into my high school, so I’d known some of these people since kindergarten. It’s not that I was particularly noticeable, since on top of being transient I was also the shy bookish type who didn’t speak up much, so I suspect most of them haven’t thought of me in decades. Then there was this giant gap when I left this area after graduation and didn’t come back, while many of my high school buddies stayed right here and kept in touch with each other.
I felt a bit space-alienish, wafting in from out of nowhere and encountering these strange old people, and after a moment of peering at each other’s faces (and our name tags), suddenly saying, “I remember you! We played tag at recess in 3rd grade!” Or the inevitable memorial slide show, and you learn about everybody who has died in the last 40 years, and you are ransacking your memory trying to place that person’s face, and there’s that warm glow when you remember that good day or that birthday party or that time in the bleachers when…and suddenly it sinks in that they’re dead. You just hoisted up that nice memory and now it’s never going to be anything more, and you’re not going to clink glasses with that old friend and reminisce about it, because they’re gone.
So it was all a little weird.
But mostly pleasant. I know many people have horrible memories of their school years, and all too often public schools are nightmarish mills of cliques and bullying and ugly social oppression, but I was lucky. I was the wimpy nerd, I would have been the easy target for bullying, but it didn’t really happen, and I had friends among all the little petty in-groups — the jocks, the cheerleaders, the stoners, the AV weirdos, everyone — and they were always pretty porous and accepting. Dang it, I don’t have any good horror stories to tell from those years! I went through high school without getting beat up (which, I know, is a low bar to set, but still…)
I think the thing is my high school class was generally just a decent group of people. I was lucky that way.
Now today Mary and I pile into the rental car and cruise west until we collide with OCEAN. We’ve got undisclosed locations stacked up along the coast of the Olympic Peninsula, and will be relaxing in splendid isolation.