I should have known something was up when for my 38th birthday this year, I went out and bought myself a tanning package and started coloring the gray in my hair. Throw in a convertible sports car and an affair with my secretary, and it would have been a bona fide mid-life crisis. Thankfully I haven’t quite reached that point; the reason, I know now, for my sudden agita over my physical appearance was instead the rapid approach of my 20-year high school reunion.
The Oxford Academy Blackhawks Class of ‘86 whooped it up in style last Saturday night at the American Legion in Norwich. And while I spent the weeks before stressing that I no longer wear a size 30 waist, I lost sight of the fact that time had marched on not just for me, but for the rest of class as well.
Although there was plenty of male-pattern baldness and expanded waistlines to go around, I’d say all in all that we’ve aged pretty damn well. It’s amazing how the passage of two decades can be swept away in an instant, and all those familiar high school associations, good and bad, come rushing back.
Every summer I end up putting about a dozen class reunion photos on our Community page, and I always look at each one as I’m typing in the names for the cutline and think, “What could these people possibly still have in common?”
It’s funny the things that bind us together as humans. While familial ties, work relationships, religious beliefs and neighborhood proximities are the more logical affiliations, the high school class has always seemed, to me anyway, like more of a stretch. Think about it, what else do you have in common with these people besides having the same school name printed on your diploma? You didn’t really seek them out as friends, there were no common interests to draw you together ... you were all simply lumped together in the same kindergarten class because your parents happened to live in the same school district.
But that, I think, is exactly what makes the “high school class” bond so unique – the absolute serendipity of it all. Back in the 80s, I was convinced that these people, most of whom I admittedly never said more than 10 words to, were all cut from the same cloth. I sought solace in being the me-decade rebel, the closeted intellectual determined to rise above all things Oxford that the in crowd seemed so enamored with.
Ah, the naivetes of youth.
The irony, of course, is that I ended up a whole 15 minutes away from Oxford, in a job more that has me inextricably tied to the goings-on in that community. And the others? Many stayed, many moved away – and nearly all pursued paths we never would have predicted in high school. That diversity was evident in our catching-up conversations Saturday night, and poignant for me in that I hadn’t appreciated it back in the day.
Of course, as per my nature, I tend to wax more philosophical than is due. Though gravity has started to take its toll, the Class of ‘86 still knows how to party. The requisite hair band music and open bar took us back 20 years within 20 minutes, and a good time was had by all (some better than others, of course ... get a room!). I’m even proud to say that I ended up leading my classmates around the Legion as the engine of the “C’mon N’ Ride It” train.
On second thought, maybe that mid-life crisis isn’t so far away ... at least I’ve got a nice tan to show for it.