Lyrics and literature have told us throughout the years that you can’t go home again, but this past Friday night I did. In a year when the childhood house I’ve known since I was barely six was sold, changing so much about what now feels like home, it was a welcome respite to go to a class reunion – something that once upon a time I would never have even considered attending. And that last statement has long been puzzling to me.
You see, I’m a person who keeps in touch, even when others don’t necessarily reach out. I don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t. If you know me, you’ll probably always know me. I’m the one who remembers and generally, the one who stays in touch, even if it’s just sporadically. So it’s been interesting to consider that shortly after graduating from high school, I quickly moved forward and seldom if ever looked back. And I had some great high school experiences and had some pretty terrific friends, so it’s not like I had anything to avoid or bad memories I was creating distance from.
I can only equate that the person I became involved with in my senior year and would go on to marry just a couple of short years later, was eight years older than me. Although he liked my friends – at least those he had met – we naturally gravitated toward his friends and many new friendships. My life seemed a million miles away pretty darn fast from what it once was, and in time, I figured most of those I had genuinely missed, most likely were busy with their lives and probably had little in common with me now.
I got married a couple of months before my 20th birthday and had a son about 18 months later. We had another child, a daughter, three years later, then bought a house, opened a wine shop, had yet another child and life continued at this breakneck speed. In my early 30s, I had another baby, was engulfed in our crazy, beautiful life and before long, high school and everyone I knew in my hometown seemed like ancient history. While I visited my parents a lot in town, I never ran into anyone while I was there and assumed, like me, most had moved away.
It would be another decade before the first connections began, when I got active on social media and started running into old neighbors, schoolmates and people I hadn’t seen in so many years. At first, I was hesitant, almost afraid to make a friend request. Face it; I hadn’t spoken to these people, former friends, in so very long. I wondered if they even would remember me. And yet they did, and in spite of the years and how grown up we thought we had potentially become, those same personalities emerged and I’d smile each time I met up with another old friend online and remembered how much they once meant – and perhaps even more surprising, how much they still did. They still felt like real friends.
Virtual stuff can be easy. I’m a writer and can easily share online and in words. I hadn’t seen anyone in person, and I can’t say I put any real effort into doing so. Then a couple of years ago, a high school friend announced she was heading back to our hometown. She was planning a get-together at a local restaurant and wanted to see who might come. Much to my surprise, I said I’d be there, and I’ll admit I felt some real trepidation as I walked through the door. The faces I’d seen online, the old friends whose lives I’d been following and commenting on, all of a sudden there some of them were, in the flesh and so much as I’d remembered them. Sure, we’d all aged, some of us (myself included) put on a few pounds (okay, speaking for me, more than a few), yet any reticence I had felt quickly melted away. These were people I knew, people who knew me, although we hadn’t seen each other for several decades.
We spoke about our current lives, laughed about old adventures together, shared in each others’ sorrows and joys, and offered support and admiration for what each of us had been through and yet managed from which to emerge still. We’ve all seen a thing or two – lived some hard things and experienced some pretty incredible things and appreciated that we still had so much in common.
When I left that night, I wondered how I ever let so many special people slip away for so long – and I marveled at how many had stayed in such close touch over the years since high school.
Throughout the years, I received reunion invitations. My mother would ask, “Are you going to go?” And I’d cynically shake it off, saying I had no desire to go to a reunion. I wish now I had. I don’t say that as a regret because I’m not a big believer in such things. I say it more I wish I had taken a chance and not held back, because it would have been such a positive thing had I taken the initiative to go. I looked at pictures from earlier reunions and saw the fun my classmates had together and the connections that remained. Maybe it just took me a while to catch on.
So this past Friday night, I saw people I have not seen since I was just 17. I caught up briefly with others who I met up with just two years ago. While I didn’t have an opportunity to speak directly with as many former classmates as I wish I could have – the night went by so quickly. Hearing the stories of what’s transpired for each of us is what truly meant the most. I loved seeing how early talents led to personal fulfillment now, about the twists and turns each life has taken and learning more about what’s next. I only wish I could have heard more.
It was so comforting to be amongst the people who started where I did, the ones that share memories with me and speak in a cadence that is only most familiar to those who grew up where I did. While they often say you can’t really go home again, maybe you can’t for good, but for a few special hours I went home and it sure felt good.