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The Postscript—Sepia-toned Teenagers


“I don’t remember you at all!” the portly man informed my husband, Peter. Peter smiled, introduced himself, and reminded the gentleman where they might have met half a century ago.

The man shook his head. “Nope!”

This was the first high school class reunion I had ever attended, and it was filled with moments like that.

I have never gone to my own class reunions. I’m not sure why. I was busy. I lived far away. I never knew more than a tiny fraction of the students in my class. I wasn’t all that happy in high school, and didn’t think of high school as the best three years of my life by a long shot.

Peter, on the other hand, has attended at least three reunions, and was eager to attend this one. He graduated ten years ahead of me, and his class was even bigger than mine. He had his hefty yearbook sitting on the dining room table a week ahead of time, scouring through the black-and-white photos and trying to remember who all these sepia-toned teenagers were.

The reunion was a simple affair and well attended. Everyone wore name tags with very large type, so it was easy to identify people from several feet away.

In high school, Peter looked young for his age. He said he weighed 120 pounds and looked about 12 years old. He was shy and wasn’t in a lot of groups. But he had far more memories of his high school peers than I ever had.

“You stole my girlfriend!” Peter announced to a bewildered classmate. The man blinked and looked at Peter, looked at his name tag, then looked at Peter again. It was clear he had no idea who Peter was, and no idea what girlfriend he had stolen.

“I did not!” he answered, reflexively.

“Sure, you did. You remember Linda!” Apparently, the man did not.

“She was blond,” Peter prompted. A vague flicker of recognition crossed the man’s face.

“I didn’t steal her!” he replied. “She was after me for months!”

“Ha!” Peter laughed, dismissing the idea out of hand.

“He did!” Peter later told me. “Then she dumped him for someone else.”

I realized how silly I had been, missing my class reunions. I had this idea that by the time I attended a high school reunion, I should be more settled, more secure. I thought the rampant insecurities of high school should be long resolved.

I’m not sure that ever happens. It’s unnerving meeting strangers and more so when they are not actually strangers, but people I remember who no longer know me, or people who remember me—and things about me, things I said and did—that I have long forgotten. It makes me vulnerable. It’s bound to be awkward. But it is also a milestone. No one really cares, at this point, if they are remembered or not. No one cares what we do or what we did for a living, or if we’ve been divorced, or how well we’ve held up over the years. At this point, a class reunion is simply a rite of passage.

We spent time with these former teenagers, once upon a time, and then we went our separate ways. We are now as different as we could possibly be and yet, at one point, we all sat together in the same classrooms, listened to the same music, and wondered what the future would look like.

At a class reunion, we get to find out—and find out it’s not that scary after all.

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