News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Of a certain age... A reunion

There’s nothing like attending a 60th high school reunion to promote reflecting on my memories of the past, which are brimming with fun and laughter, satisfying achievements, and yes, some teenage heartbreak that never lasted for long.

I am very fortunate to still count as some of my best friends people who shared those teenage years with me. Whenever we talk on the phone, or, more rarely, see each other in person, there has been no passage of time. We are again who we’ve always been to each other. My life-long friends are my touchstones, reminding me of who I am at the core and what I have accomplished.

Sharing a hotel room with my friend of 75 years, we were transported right back to all our overnights as children, enjoying mountains of laughter and whispered confessions in the dark, before sleep. We hold each other’s memories, she remembering what I’ve forgotten and me doing the same for her.

The essence of my memory is not in the storage of facts and information, but in the emotions I hold and the meaning I ascribe to my recollections. My lifelong friendships remain because I “knew them when” and they knew me. We hold each other in our memories of what was, as well as what is now.

Walking into a room full of my contemporaries made it clear that yes, I am approaching 80, and I, like them, am old. Some were easily recognizable. For others, the name tags helped me place them. And a few I swear weren’t in our class.

One of the best athletes in our class is now dealing with bone cancer and is a shell of his youthful self. Some of the pretty girls are now lovely mature women whose wrinkles add character and a different kind of beauty. Life has dealt a few of us some difficult hands and the struggles are evident in stooped shoulders, hesitant steps, and weary expressions. Hair that sported beehive hairdos is now gray. Short, waxed crewcuts have been replaced by receding hairlines or no hair at all. And we all look much older, our youthful bloom having faded years ago. But for a few short hours, we remind each other of who we used to be.

Sixty years is a long time and yet, in some ways, it has passed in the blink of any eye. Could any of us, as we eagerly left high school, even begin to conceive of what lay ahead? I certainly didn’t and it’s probably better that way. I don’t think I would have believed what life had in store for me anyway.

My high school memories — scholastic achievements, cheerleading, playing on the tennis team, being walked to class by the current boyfriend, working on the school newspaper and yearbook, learning to drive our 1949 Willys Jeepster, the breakups and momentary heartache, aftergame dances, being selected for the prom court — are not merely an inventory of what I did.

They are vital ingredients of my history.

From my experiences and memories of them, I had the foundation on which to build my identity and my life.

How I remember what has happened to me, the people I have known, the mistakes I have made, the triumphs I have enjoyed, the bitter and the sweet moments, helped make me who I am today.

For a few hours at the reunion, we were again the class of ’62, catching up with one another before we returned to our real adult lives and all those parts of us we didn’t share with our classmates.


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