Imagine, if you will, walking into a room full of strangers that you are suppose to know. After fifty years older faces on kids who walked the halls and sat next to you for three years brings little recognition.
Nametags are a start but if the names have not been spoken in that length of times what can be said with the handshake? There were two days and three occasions to reconnect or connect for the first time.
The first stop was a name brand famous in this city but not as familiar anymore. A clean establishment known for hickory smoked hams and Virginia peanuts became a gathering spot selected for a pizza party. Beer was $2.00. Awkward attempts to recognize each other and find those of your high school clique were amazing to watch. Soon pockets of old friends starting sharing stories, taking selfies, and devouring pizza. The room filled with a buzz bouncing off the tiled walls. Should have been recorded.
The next event was going back to the high school attended (and luckily graduated) so long ago for a PowerPoint presentation to restore the school spirit and ask for alumni donations. It was a basic presentation skipping over the Art Deco design but emphasis on the students who served in the military. There were headshots of teachers but each person had their own memories. Where were the cadets? Where was the orchestra? Where were the cheerleaders? Where were the football players running through paper banners? Should we sing “Jeffersonian” now?
Before the box lunch in the cafeteria, there was time to wander the wide hallways and relive memories. The old building still had enough smells and sounds for flashbacks. What was my locker number? Where was my homeroom? So there was an elevator.
Each stop gave more time to view old classmates as they interact today.
The first reunion was after 5 years and was held at a community center with picnic tables and kegs. People only had stories of early employment, college or university, military service, marriage and babies and the best part was a fistfight in the parking lot.
The second reunion was after 20 years. Held in a downtown glass and chrome high-rise hotel the class had time to establish themselves. Men were starting to bald and bulge and the woman on their arm might not be the first wife. Instead of passing business cards trying to network like the first reunion, this one was about bragging on accomplishments. The musical soundtrack had not changed.
This reunion was about who has survived and the discussions were about family and extended family and physical ailments. It is what people of this age do.
The banquet dinner and dance held a larger venue with tables covered in 45 records and chairs draped to look fancy. There were china and silverware and the beer was up to $6.00. Most dressed up to impress with attempts to be selected to the Key Club or lead role in Oklahoma or Carousal. The DJ did agree to play a Frank Zappa song so mission accomplished. Checked the tables to find the cool kids, but finally settled near the music. The familiar faces kept up with over all these years said the same words and were all the same. One who had not been seen in a decade arrived and a brief conversation couldn’t fill in years apart. Another who had played guitar on the porch earlier entertaining the passing mother and carriage couldn’t attend to medical emergency. As the crowd thinned and the conga line formed my chariot got me home before mayhem could proceed.
At the end, my stranger classmates will depart to parts unknown and the dust will settle and the school will still stand proud a few blocks away and the next milestone will come. Back to normality the yearbooks will be put back on the shelf, the confusion of the chatter will become gossip and the rocker on the porch calls me. The soundtrack had not changed.