Summer is here, when the world seems to take a deep breath and search out a nice shade tree. Many of us are getting ready to travel on much-needed and anticipated vacations. Along with vacation time come reunions – family reunions, class reunions, church homecomings, and other gatherings where people get together to fill up on love, memories, good times and bad, and to simply remind ourselves that we are not alone.
I am preparing for a high school reunion later this month. It’s the big one – how is it possible that 1966 was 50 years ago? I have mixed feelings about going. Part of me wants to see the friends I grew up with, while another part of me is hiding in the shadows, feeling very awkward and shy. I become 15 years old all over again! What am I going to wear? What will people think when they see me? What will I think when I see them? What are we going to talk about? Will anybody want to talk to me?
The funny thing about this reunion is that I didn’t graduate from high school with these people. My family moved the summer before my junior year, and I left the familiarity of my small town, familiar streets, and friendly faces to be thrust into a place I didn’t know, and with classmates who didn’t seem to be interested in getting to know me outside of the classroom. I made a few friends at my new school, but I never felt included in the life of the school or community. I was an outsider, a newcomer, the “new girl.” I missed out on all of the activities of the place I knew and loved so well, so I can’t share in the stories of school dances, having a steady boyfriend or going out on dates, cheering at football and basketball games with my “pack”, girls’ slumber parties, senior trips, or all the other things my girlfriends did once drivers’ licenses were in hand.
I left before I had a chance to find a niche for myself in my hometown high school, and entered a new school where there didn’t seem to be a place for me. I know my memories are distorted, now 50 years later, but the insecurities I felt as an adolescent are doing their best to claw their way to the surface. And they are doing a pretty good job at it! It’s not easy being 68 years old, and having all of these teen-age insecurities give me a nervous tummy all over again.
However, there is one thing about this upcoming reunion that I am looking forward to immensely. A small group of girls from my elementary school are getting together the day before the reunion for lunch. It is with these girls that I have my fondest memories – walking to school and back and forth from our houses together, playing on the school playground, being in the same Camp Fire Girls group, going to each others’ birthday parties, moving up together in the grades at Winnona Park Grammar School, and sleeping over at each others’ houses. These are the memories I treasure, and I can’t wait to see these childhood friends.
And so reunion time approaches, and I am mentally gearing myself up for it. Writing helps. It clears my mind and sets everything out on the table for me to look at, examine, and realize that it’s really not all that scary. No monsters are lurking in the shadows to grab me. I won’t be alone, and there will be plenty of love and memories to share and to pass around.
And what I need to concentrate on most is that it isn’t about what happened to a shy little girl 50-some-odd years ago, but what matters is who I am today.
Reunion time – it’s a good thing.
And I’m not 15 years old!