I really didn’t want to go. Or more accurately, I was ambivalent about going. I keep up with the old friends I most want to see, a habit helped by the annual girls’ trip in spring. It seems enough for me. I get to see Ruth Ann, Janet, Nancy, Linda, Julie on a regular basis.
But my childhood friend, Margaret, is an organizer, and a bit of a pesterer, and she kept bringing it up. She’s always nice about it, not manipulative really, just a bit insistent that everyone know the dates, suggesting that it might be fun, using certain ploys to hit the right notes of enticement, each one tailored to whomever she is speaking to at the time.
And of course, I received urgent messages from the event organizers to RESPOND TO THIS EMAIL IMMEDIATELY and to GET MY MONEY IN NOW. It was all too much. But then two things happened that tipped the scales. First, about a week out, three good friends from out of town let us know they were coming, and I received an email from someone I hadn’t seen in decades, and she was coming for our high school reunion, too.
Good old Ritter.
She has a first name, one of those mid-century names that every fourth girl child owned, so, to distinguish her from the others, she was simply Ritter. And I am happy to report, she still is. She moved to Texas not long after graduation and once her dad moved to Texas, too, I don’t suppose she ever came back, or at least not much.
We had drifted away in high school, any way. Our class was huge and the baby boom was at its height. In our senior year we were on double sessions—splitting the school day between four grades to accommodate a classroom crunch.
It made for a sad sack kind of senior year, with a fractured schedule and many of us dreaming of life after graduation and just getting on with it. I was one of those.
But Ritter showed up early the week of the reunion, came in from in Texas and hosted a gathering of old friends, some from our class, others whom she knew as a kid. It was great seeing them, seeing her. She is a grandmother now, has lived in Texas and Singapore, manages a hotel, has almost a half-century of living away from Owensboro, and she hasn’t changed a bit.
But of course, she has.
But not to me.
She looks the same, sounds the same, has the same sense of humor, and we might as easily have been eleven and circling the food table like we did at slumber parties. She looks like her mother now. Many of us look like our mothers, we decided. But what I saw, saw it all night long, was the little girl who could climb trees like a monkey, the child I went to Girl Scouts with, the friend who was always up for a laugh and an escapade.
It was a quieter reunion than others, although the music was better, thanks to our classmate, John Laswell, and his band. When I say quiet, I mean, we sat around and talked more, caught up. It was endearing to hear grown, mature men who live out of town talk about going home to sleep in their old rooms, in a twin bed, in a house kept too hot by their parents. We commiserate with them, thinking of our own parents’ homes. Those of us whose parents are gone, may wistfully have wished for one more night in our old beds.
If this reunion were a person, it would be decidedly middle-aged. We are that, and then some. It was a sweet evening, low key, but connected. There were hugs, real ones, from girls we’ve known since grade school, from boys we had crushes on. Hugs that were affectionate and warm, uncomplicated now in a way that high school never was.
We are less our old selves and more our old selves, and it works somehow. We had a hand in shaping each other, whether we knew it at the time, or not. That is worth considering, although it requires nothing of us now. But to spend an evening remembering and reconnecting was nice. I am glad I went.
Here is where I thank Margaret for getting me there. I might have one more reunion in me. But that’s a maybe, with the final decision reserved for the eleventh hour.