PAT TAYLOR: Making the Most of a 39th Class Reunion
Myrtle Beach doesn't even make my top 100 list of places to go for a long weekend, despite the plethora of golf courses. The idea of high-rise hotels on the beach is plainly sick and wrong to someone who grew up going to Carolina beaches in the 1950s and '60s.
But there we were, checking into a 15-story, mustard-colored, neo-Art Deco-looking building, guaranteed to have great views of the ocean, with a nine-story parking deck across the street.
While checking in, I found myself asking, "Self, what are we doing here?" What is it I could possibly hope to find in going to meet people I hadn't seen in at least 29 years, since our 10th high school reunion?
This event was scheduled over a weekend, so we'd have some real time together. And it was for more than one class year, so I might see a few extra people. And it was at Ocean Drive, so we'd at least have some sand in our shoes if all else failed.
But seriously, what were any of us doing here? I still have one good friend from high school, but he wasn't coming. A few women I'd become friends with again (on Facebook.com) had maintained relationships with each other through college and children. They were getting a group together. But it wasn't like there was a large bunch of close ol' buddies that we'd be plugging into. We were all essentially strangers.
But still we came. On faith, I guess. Did I mention that The Good Wife consented to go down with me, on our 29th anniversary weekend? Her name, Leilani, means "heavenly flower." Talk about patience.
At one time, we had been a large, pretty tight group of friends and classmates, some closer and some not so. We went to a large, relatively affluent high school (South Mecklenburg), had similar backgrounds and values, and we had gone to one of two junior high schools. We knew each other for a number of years during that most formative time in our lives. We were pretty lucky, really, as far as high school went.
I don't think I was chasing anything in particular, so much as I was curious to see what would happen. Would there be any magic? I didn't hold up high expectations but tried to remain open. For one thing, I'd already reconnected with six or eight classmates on Facebook this year, so we weren't walking in totally estranged. That probably would have been really weird.
So, what did I/we find? As it turned out, we found a wonderful group of people who wanted to reconnect as people. We were there to renew friendships that apparently had never died, but just gone fallow. It was as easy to reconnect as opening your hand and your heart. That's why we were there! To touch roots and lives, to regain people we once cared about. And to meet new ones with a common background.
The group of eight ladies from my class rented a place together and had the best of times. They had come from all over to be there. What an exceptional group of women -- all givers, all achievers, all well educated. All good hearts, and always had been. It was gratifying to witness that reunion within the reunion. They let me sit in the middle of them while we had our photos made.
"Everyman's dream!" I crowed, laughing at the thought. Luckily, they'd all embraced Leilani as instantly one of them, so it was good. She actually took the photos.
It was a social dance. I renewed friendships, heard about old friends who had done well, and friends who'd struggled, and a few who had died. We danced, trying to shag like we knew what we were doing. I played golf with the guy I've probably known the longest now -- since 1963. I had not seen him since 1980, but our games were perfectly matched.
It was like a dream, and one I hope to relive again next year for the 40th. That's why you go. And if you get the chance, dare to dance. You may be surprised at how well the steps turn out.
Pat Taylor is advertising director for The Pilot. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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