••• The International Writers Magazine - 23 Years on-line - High School Reunions
Fifty-one Years Later: Meeting High School Friends
Dr Bonnie Devet
It’s summer. It’s high school reunion time. It’s the season for a managed, staged reunion at an overly posh country club, organized by the same folks who had controlled everything else during the high school years, from clothing styles to cars driven.
But, who needs a fancy band, rubber chicken dishes, and sitting with people who would never have sat with you in the school cafeteria? Instead, like the rebels we were in school, some of my fellow high school companions and I decide to craft our own reunion and renew our acquaintance. After all, it’s been fifty plus one years since we last met up. It is time.
So, we three meet for lunch at a restaurant in a city convenient for us all, not far from the bustling metropolis of Charlotte, N.C. Certainly, time has passed: hair is grayer (well, in true confession, it might be said to be “whiter”), and knees are not what they used to be. We each are a testament to time. Arriving first, I await my high school friends, worried that I might not be able to recognize them. It is a false fear.
When the first high school rebel arrives, I know immediately who it is: one’s essence remains the same. Eyes don’t alter, and the soul—reached through the eyes as the ancients tell us—is vibrant, vital, apparent. So, I recognize, at once, my high school friend’s helpful, directive character, ready to give advice and be supportive, someone who has been an extremely successful, highly regarded account for all these past years. We embrace with a girlish hug (we are “girls” again!), and I am embarrassed that I had feared the lack of recognition.
Then, number two of the reunion arrives, sweeping in, easily known by her centered, focused, scientific approach to life, mixed with a bit of whimsy. After all, here is a noted scientist, rational and focused, but also someone who, like so many of us, talks to her car. Patting the dashboard after passing another sporty vehicle, this rationalist reassures her car with, “You’re cute, too!” No change here.
This reunion is about re-membering: becoming members again with each other by recalling what we can from our high school days. One such memory is the high school-sponsored trip to Europe (back when such summer school trips lasted six weeks and covered what seemed like everything from Italy to England, with stops in between). My high school friend mentions our accident in Munich, where the bus carrying us teenagers crashed into a trolley. Though I recall a bystander carrying me off the crushed bus and depositing me in the ambulance along with the injured driver, I never knew someone in the accident had died…until this lunch fifty-one years later. A vital, tragic detail has slipped through the cracks of memory and time.
Less dramatic but still painful is the memory of our geekdom, long before the word “geek” was even coined. Back in the day, we felt we had originated it (and certainly had experienced it), sitting off by ourselves in the school cafeteria, in a far, far galaxy, separated from the cool tables and complaining about the vegetable soup (always served on Fridays) slopping over onto the cornbread in the plastic trays. It had to be cornbread; we were, after all, in a very southern high school.
At today’s lunch, though, we have the prime table, hovered over by an eager-to-please restaurant owner and an attentive waiter who are honored to help us with our mini-reunion. Time’s passage can make you feel important.
Determined to include other rebels, we phone (the wonders of cells!) a fellow high schooler who cannot make the luncheon reunion. Gently setting the phone on the restaurant table, we talk to her…spanning the miles and the years. This phone-in friend describes events from the past, events that we at the table have forgotten, like being cast in roles for school plays, something I did not recall. Memory’s feather, with a gentle touch, can often run through the mind, briefly stirring only a slight breeze.
Towards the end of our reunion lunch, I bring out the last wills and testaments that high school graduates write, parting shots at one’s school before moving on to the rest of our lives. These testaments, on moldy, yellow sheets of newspaper, drag us back into our high school selves. They also reveal more mysteries. In my last will and testament, I cannot recall what a reference to “T.T.” stands for while the other reunionists shake their heads over teachers’ names or long-ago football games with archrivals. Our responses are “Huh?” It is said that we often forget because there is too much to remember. More frightening is that our minds, seemingly without any input from our conscious selves, decide for us which details are too minor to store. Memory has its own ways.
The annual from our graduation year sits on the restaurant table, but no one wants to look at it, again. After all, time has progressed; we have progressed. As one of the reunionists states, “I have remembered enough.” A move to save one’s sanity.
As happens when sympatico personalities convene, we have picked up right where we left off . . . over a half century before. We have each been on a path to be who we are, based on character and experience: one helpful, directive, supportive; the other reserved, deep, thoughtful. We are the same, only richer and more sure of our selves, each a witness to time and memory.
© Dr Bonnie Devet - July 7th 2022
Professor of English/Director of the Writing Lab
College of Charleston, SC
Visiting with the Treasures of the British Library
Dr Bonnie Devet
It’s a British morning, with its customary grayness suspended heavily from the sky. Eager souls, including me, are queuing along London’s Euston Road, alining a ramp before the entrance to the British Library.
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