20-Year High School Reunion

The Saturday after Thanksgiving (the 24th) Debbi and I went to our 20-year high school reunion. For those keeping score at home (or surfing in later), we graduated in the class of 1987 from Newton South High School in suburban Boston.

I generally have fond memories of high school. Oh sure, there are things I’d like to forget (most of German class, for instance – oh wait, I already have!), but I enjoyed it a lot more than I enjoyed college. This is because there were more people in high school of like minds to my own, reading comic books and science fiction, arguing about math and science, playing games, and so forth. I have more friends and people I keep in touch with from high school than from college. (From college, I think John is pretty much it.) I was in the nerd group in high school, but in our high school there was a large nerd contingent anyway, as well as many smart intellectual types who weren’t my brand of nerd, so it worked out pretty well.

I went to our 10-year reunion in 1997, which was just a few months after I started my web journal, and I had a good time there. I was looking forward to this one, too, even though I knew that most of my good friends from high school wouldn’t be there. The nerd crowd just isn’t interested in attending reunions – maybe I was unusual in my fond memories of high school. But I knew that several people were not in contact, such as Marc F, Tony C and Mark C, and that Matt H and David A wouldn’t be there either (though the last I think would be happy to attend, but wasn’t able to make it). Still, I was reasonably cosmopolitan as a high school nerd went, so I expected to see a lot of people I knew.

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We knew going in that one of the stories we’d tell over and over is that Debbi and I have been dating for over six years. We met each other through the e-mails that were going around for a 15-year reunion (which ended up being cancelled due to lack of people locally to organize it), and after exchanging a number of e-mails we went on a date and things have moved along from there. We’re not married and we don’t have kids, but we do live together with our four cats.

Debbi’s high school experience was very different from mine, but I won’t try to describe it here; we weren’t really in the same social circles (though we were in the same homeroom). She missed the 10-year (she was out of contact at the time), and unlike me she hadn’t been back to South to visit in many years. (I was there maybe 5 years ago, and had visited off and on up until then.) So she was less sure what to expect going in, although she had more old friends who seemed like to attend. I’m not quite sure whether she’d have gone if we weren’t together. Maybe she would have.

Myself, I enjoy watching people, and I was very curious to see where people had gone and how they’d changed in the years since. I suppose one reason to go to a school reunion is to see how successful and happy you are in life compared to your peers, and being a pretty competitive person – from a pretty competitive environment – I admit there was some of that for me. But mostly, well, childhood friends are the people you’re in the best position to watch as they grow up and mature, and reunions are the best opportunity for that sort of observation.

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Saturday morning was an informal reception at South’s gymnasium so we alumni could see some of the things they’ve done with the school since we graduated, and families were invited. Debbi and I went with my sister Katy and her son Ivan, since Katy also attended South (she was 4 grades lower than me). They’ve built a huge second gym down the hall from the original gym, and done a lot of renovations on the buildings in recent years. I’ve seen a few of the changes they’ve made since high school, but a lot of this was new to me. Unfortunately we weren’t able to see the rest of the school, but it was an interesting glimpse anyway.

A whole bunch of people showed up with their families. I was a little surprised at how many young children there were, but then I remembered that only a handful of people had children by the 10-year, so therefore most of the kids would be young. Since I don’t have kids of my own, I don’t have a good perspective on what raising kids is like. (With some of my friends today starting to have kids, this may change over the next few years.)

The main reception was in the evening at the Newton Marriott (which was certainly more accessible than driving into downtown Boston as we did in 97). There were old yearbooks out to peruse, photos of people back in high school, and of course the obligatory dance floor and DJ playing 80s dance music (which was not for me since I don’t dance and I can’t stand 80s pop music).

There are two big differences in one’s classmates between the 10-year and the 20-year reunions: First is the physical changes people have gone through, whether it’s gray hair, or less hair (even the women have less hair as they opt for shorter hair styles), or a few wrinkles. I’ve been graying at my temples for several years now, plus I’m heavier than I was back in the day. The other difference is the additional maturity. At the 10-year reunion we were only 6 years out of college, which meant many people were just starting their careers, or had gone back to school for an advance degree, or were working jobs but hadn’t yet decided on a career. At the 20-year all of us professionals had been plying our trade for close to a decade, sometimes more. People had children, some had become full-time parents. For the most part we’re now in the roles we’ll play for the rest of our careers, whereas 10 years ago we were all over the map.

I sometimes wonder whether my peers think they’ve changed a lot since high school. I tend to think I’m much the same person I was back then: The geeky guy who feels uncomfortable in groups of people, and the reunion was of course… a group of people. So it took me a while to start chatting with people, but I did have a good time once I started. Adding to the awkwardness was that many people remembered my name on sight, while I often had trouble remembering peoples’ names even when their faces were familiar. I’m not sure if this is because I was weirdly memorable from back in the day, or if my brains have mostly turned to mush. Maybe both. It was flattering that so many people remembered me, though.

As for Debbi, some friends from her childhood were there, including someone she’d been good friends with through school who had grown up to be a friendly, good-looking guy who owned his own business:

Debbi & Friend

And of course we got to tell the story of getting together over and over again, which I think Debbi enjoys telling. (She says she’s amused that we were “the talk of the room” for a while.)

Reunions are a bit awkward and a bit weird, but I had a good time anyway, and found it very interesting all around. I guess they’re talking about having a 25-year reunion, and if they do, we’ll definitely go back.

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(A final note: Some journal entries are harder to write than others. Occasionally they’re hard enough that they end up languishing for a long time or never getting published at all. This was one such entry, as the reunion happened nearly a year ago as I write this. But I didn’t want it to be completely forgotten, so I’m hoping it’s better late than never!)