I started thinking about my 20th high school reunion last spring.
Should I go? Would it matter if I skipped the event? I’d just had a baby. Would I look good? Who would be there?
Indeed, I had a blast at my ten-year reunion. I was not yet 28-years old at that time, was newly engaged to be married with a sparkler on my finger, and spent the entire summer prior to the reunion traveling and sunning on the deck of my (well, okay, it was George’s) beachfront Ballard condo. Heck yeah, I was going to my ten-year reunion! What did I have to lose?
George was fishing in the Bering Sea that summer, so one of my lifelong BFFs drove from her home further south and picked me up. I was nervous, but at least I had a buddy to walk into the less formal “bar night” with, and someone with whom to attend the offical reunion. We were still young, we did not yet have children, and we were ready to party.
Flash forward ten years; none of my BFFs were attending the twentieth reunion. Panic! I contacted another dear friend. Then another. It seemed nobody was going! Oh, no.
I also did not have a babysitter for either night of the twentieth reunion, try as I’d had to line one up. I have a seven-month old who is used to me being home for each of her waking moments, as well as a five-and a six-year-old who rely on the consistency of good ole’ mom being home day and night. (When you have a husband who is gone up to five months in a row, your children become especially bonded to you.)
So, my BFFs were not going to the reunion. Still other friends were not going. I had a baby and two other children who were going to be very upset if I went.
You know what I did? I found an outfit to wear, put my hair in rollers, got into my car, and I went.
It was a big decision. There was a lot of stress leading up to this weekend; Vincent’s hearing loss diagnosis, particular difficulties surrounding writing and Jazzercise, and the on-going transition upon George’s return home from Alaska into a family of five from a family of four.
But you know what? I am so glad I made the choice to go.
From the moment I walked into the first night, I spotted friends I’d lost track of and many of the “kids” I grew up with. I found the people with whom I was in clubs (Junior State of America, anyone?) wrestling cheerleaders, and youth group. Boys I had crushes on in eighth grade. Former neighbors, elementary school friends, people with whom I also attended college, and individuals who remained dear to me after college.
On the second night of the reunion I got dressed up again, put Valerie in her jammies (after her first night without me, it was clear I’d need to take her with me or not go at all!) and headed back out for another night of festivities. A friend and his wife, who were also attending the reunion, were thoughtful enough to bring their daughter to town watch my older two children so that G and I could both go to the reunion.
For a couple who does not go out (or go out together) because of his fishing schedule and the ages of our children, this was a huge gift. A night out! With G? Sweet!
The second night of the reunion was even better than the first night. The sun shone bright, it was hot, and the setting was festive and fun. Everyone came to have a good time. The planning committee produced a top-notch event complete with cool name tags, balloons, and souvenir drink glasses. I took a picture with my elementary school friends, talked and laughed with other friends, and reacquainted with people I’d either never known well or with whom I’d lost touch.
I also had a handful of beautiful, warm, giving, and loving girlfriends (along with G) who held and snuggled baby Valerie so I could relax and enjoy myself.
And I know that while everyone came to the reunion to have a good time, not everyone has had a good time of late. The last twenty years, and especially the last ten, have been hard on a lot of people. There have been divorces and custody battles, and classmates who have lost parents to accidents or illness. There are classmates who have lost their blessed pregnancies and babies, their brothers, and their sisters.
Still, these people came. They came to connect, to talk, to kick back, to reminisce as well as look forward.
We have a very special class and we come from a very special town. Admittedly, I was one of the first who was ready to leave this town behind after I graduated. I was never happier than when I moved to Portland and then Seattle. I never planned to move back here.
But then—I became pregnant with my first child. With a commercial fishing husband (and of course, being raised in a commercial fishing family), I knew that I was going to be by myself a lot as I raised my children. I knew I needed to be where I was comfortable, and where I had history, and where my friends were.
Not all of the people I went to school with are my friends, and I don’t see most of them except every ten years. However, this town feels like home to me. And whenever I see the people I went to elementary, middle, high school, and college with, I see “home” in their faces. Whether or not we see or talk to each other at any other time, and whether or not they even still live here in the town where we all grew up, they are home.