This was not a job I thought I would relish after Jessica Inclan said in an earlier post that we never, ever leave high school, but I've grown excited about the prospect of reconnecting. I had a feeling it would fall partly on me to help round up classmates for our--gasp!--thirtieth high school reunion. I couldn't sleep so I decided to work on a rough draft. Oh, yeah, I've been dancing to Marvin Gaye's "I Heard it Through the Grape Vine" to get into the spirit.
A Letter to My Classmates
I met Chris Kelly on a drizzley January morning for coffee at Il Fornaio in Carmel. We had not seen one another in nearly thirty years, not since we frisbee'd our red mortar boards into the wind and scooted off like newly-hatched sea turtles, scrambling for the Pacific Ocean.
I remember Chris as the boy who asked this wallflower to dance at Carmel Middle School when we were uncivilized halflings. I was surprised to find out that he, too, had not learned English as his first language, for he was born in Asia like me. I, on Taiwan, an island shaped like a sweet potato; Chris to missionary parents in the misty hills of southern India. We were kids trying to fit into an American society with a wholly alien set of cultural values. (I studied hard because for my family, success in America would mean we did not have to go back to poverty and an authoritarian state.) Added to the fluctuations of hormones and fragile self-concept, we would hardly have been able to empathize with one another's teen angst.
So, there we were catching up but really just getting to know one another for the first time . Chris initiated conversation about our thirtieth reunion. (Alison Porter Matoon who has organized all past reunions and earns a well-deserves rest and sainthood. She's taking her daughter to visit prospective colleges.)
Why attend reunions? A classmate blurted, "Why would I want to be with people I've nothing in common with, especially now that we are middle aged, fat, gray and balding?" Well, she said this humorously--I think. (Btw, Kathy Coakly-Baker Emailed to tell me she'd be attending the reunion in her pull-up elastic pants, blue hair and driving to Carmel in an RV.)
Why indeed. For me, it's a celebration of our persistent efforts in a difficult and, oftentimes, unkind world. It isn't a time to compare portfolios, cars, trophy wives, husbands, vacations to exotic places, titles; it isn't time to brag about the Himalaya Mountain of goods we've been able drag into our lives like pack rats on this brief visit to Earth.
It is to come together--not as former brains, nerds, jocks, surfers, cheerleaders, "popular people," loners, cowboys, cowchicks, or whatever derogatory terms with which we shattered identities--but as unique individuals with the edges rounded off by bumps, crashes, heartaches and experience.
It is for the surprises like the time I met Carie Hofer Grissim at an art benefit and learned that we both loved to paint; and a day at Point Lobos with Stan Fairbank, who is now a designer; or the joy of getting to know Lee Geiger to whom I had exchanged no more than three words in high school, but when we saw one another a few years ago, we chin-wagged from six to ten P.M. at a restaurant without once lifting our rear ends off the chairs!
It is to marvel at the swift passage of three whole decades; it is to celebrate one another's ability to overcome odds in achieving the grand age of forty-eight; it is to cheer those who are raising children in a complex, rapidly shifting landscape. It is to support those who support their aging or sick parents. It is to wish first time mother, Kristen Tibbitts Marinovic, the healthiest of twin boys. It is to talk about our hopes and dreams for the future. And it is, perhaps, to ask one question of one another:
What was the one most important lesson you've learned since we last saw one another?
(Dean Leonard said in an Email, he learns something new everyday about parenting, being a husband, and about spirituality.)
(gouache by B.Y.)
Chris replied to my query: "I learned that we all grow and develop at our own pace." I immediately thought about the six foot tall cypress sapling and a wispy, three inch seedling I had planted a few yards apart. The latter caught up to the former within two years.
(Gouache by B.Y.)
Me? I learned that adversity is good for me. Adversity does not shackle; it sets free. I've spent a good number of years unbalanced by stupid choices then a bout with illness--falling, falling, falling then picking myself. Again and again. My goals and hopes for the future? It is to wear more silly hats and laugh so hard everyday, I fall out of my chair.
Okay, enough of the philosophy and silliness. Back to business at hand. Fortunately, Lee Geiger, John Pollard and others have stepped forward for the daunting task of locating classmates too. I hope you will do the same. Go to your computer and Google, Whitepages.com, Classmates.com and see if you can find a handful of friends and then ask them to continue the effort. (I cringe to think back on the kids who were teased mercilessly, hounded the pack. I don't think I was overtly mean, but I did nothing to defend them so I am equally guilty. I will not name these classmates but I hope they will attend the reunion as a gesture of forgiveness.)
Thank you, dear Chris Kelly, for all the heavy-lifting while recuperating from a broken ankle. Chris, Alison, Lee, John and I can't wait to see you all!
And what IS the most important thing you've learned, O sea turtles that have endured in this vasty sea? Please return to Carmel Beach and tell us about your journey.
Chris is building our class website so please go to www.carmel78.com to find out the details as they become available.
P.S.--Jill Ricketts' mom said, "Fiftieth reunion is best," meaning Jill can skip the thirtieth. No way, Jill , we still have our semi well-oiled joints for dancing. I am not holding out for 2028.
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