My attitude stemmed from a disastrous ten-year reunion that I organized at our high school. I thought the venue would be fun. I thought people would RSVP. I thought it would be okay that no alcohol was allowed on school grounds. I was so wrong.
First, we ran out of food. Then, some enterprising soul set up a keg in the parking lot. Then a police car showed up. Fortunately, it was driven by one of our classmates. Also fortunately, I have a different attitude now. It emerged, as I remember, the night of our 20-year reunion. I’d completely lost track of time. I looked at my watch at about 11:40 p.m., and couldn’t remember how long it had been since I’d been up that late on a Saturday night.
My attitude continued to evolve when, as many reunion committees do, ours started scheduling not only a Saturday evening event, but also a subsequent Sunday afternoon picnic so that families could get together to continue to conviviality that had taken place the evening before. Not too many miles from our high school, up in the hills above Stanford, is a road house called the Alpine Inn that students of all ages – not to mention cyclists, bikers, equestrians, you name it – have been frequenting for as long as most of us can remember.
It’s one of those old rickety places with wooden planks on the floor and license plates from other states tacked on the wall behind the bar. It’s got a huge parking lot in the front and an expansive picnic area in the back with tables that can accommodate any number of groups. If someone’s hungry, they order a burger. If they’re thirsty, they get a beer. One year, we decided to have a “reunion between the reunions” – that is, an afternoon get-together during a year that wasn’t a five- or ten-year anniversary of our graduation. And it was so simple to organize – a few e-mails, a few postings on Facebook, no RSVPs, no money to collect.
We’re lucky, of course, in that the economic engine of Silicon Valley has kept many of us here; not all high school classes have that advantage. But the result is as low-maintenance a reunion can get. And so the semi-annual get-together has become an annual get-together.
Last weekend was this year’s event. Classmates from my year, not to mention the classes around us (in fact, I think my class was outnumbered) came together on a beautiful summer day (the photo is of me on the left with two of my – believe it or not – elementary school classmates, Robin and Ben). Some drove in, some flew in, and one even cycled in.
It wasn’t all wonderful. At least twice in the first hour, I effusively greeted women who turned out be from other classes and not who I thought they were. From now on, I’m waiting until the name tags go on before I say anything. Also at least twice, people said to me, “I’m not sure I want to tell you this because I don’t want to see it in print.” I’m gratified that my classmates are reading my blog, but come on, folks, where do you think I get my material if not from my target demographic?
But we also talked about separations and sadness, work and unemployment, about the classmates and teachers we’d lost, frequently opening ourselves up in ways that we never would have done in our guarded youth. It was the kind of day that makes me realize that my first definition was wrong.
For all our cliques and snubs of so many years ago, there is indeed a bond that forms from going through the hell of adolescence in the same time and place. And rather than withering, that bond strengthens over time. And now, having become adults and experienced in our work life more disconcerting hell than high school, the pettiness has eroded and left us with fonder memories, especially of weekend afternoons in a secluded picnic area in the hills.