The secret life of class reunions

A class reunion is a time machine of sorts…

By: /The American in Italia

The closest invention to a time machine is perhaps the high school reunion. Going back to the campus where you went to school every day as a teenager and experiencing that strong sense of familiarity – even though years have passed since you last set foot there – is a unique experience. The motivation behind regular reunions is similar to what drives you to reread a favorite book. Every time you do it, something new reveals itself. Perhaps it’s the campus, or the characters. Same place. Same people. Yet nothing’s the same.

Attending my reunion in May, I saw people I’d known pretty well in high school whom I barely know now. I also saw people I barely interacted with years ago, but with whom I now share something I don’t share with anyone else in my life. Only now do I see how high school and college really are the formative years of adulthood in modern America. Or, to borrow from William Carlos Williams: so much depends on a red wheelbarrow.

The motivation behind regular reunions is similar to what drives you to reread a favorite book. Every time you do it, something new reveals itself.

Looking at old pictures, I am struck by how young we all were–yet, we didn’t know it at the time. My high school classmates and teachers were the last people to know me before a series of events that were my young adulthood: my parents’ separation and divorce, my father’s marriage to a woman to whom I’d never been introduced, my mother’s diagnosis with cancer, her illness and death, my father’s subsequent silent cross-country move with his wife, and my sister’s detachment from relations with remaining family, including first and foremost with me. High school friends and classmates– though several of them have already passed on due to accidents or illness– knew me when I was a different person. And in some ways, I miss that person.

In other ways, though, I don’t miss that person at all. She was a little too sheltered to appreciate the important things. She was envious of some of her friends for all the wrong reasons. She listened to her parents even when she might have been better off listening to herself. She hadn’t yet found her voice. But she was just a kid, after all. I forgive her.

Someone once asked me what the best moment or time period in my life has been so far, and it was such a strange question. They were looking for an answer like “high school,” “college,” or “my twenties.” But honestly, I’ve always felt like the best moment is usually right now, and sometimes yet to come. My best moments are whenever I’m with people I appreciate, or when I’m so highly involved in something– be it writing, hiking, or having a deep conversation– that I forget about the moment itself.

I also saw people I barely interacted with years ago, but with whom I now share something that I don’t share with anyone else in my life.

High school was a special time of big vicissitudes. I went from a small insular Jewish school to a much larger secular private school, from undemanding academics to rigorous college-prep level academics, from rudimentary elective and extracurricular offerings to sophisticated electives, sports, and arts offerings.

I adjusted to many transitions, and then it was time to change again. I went to a large public university near extended family in southern California, spent one quarter studying abroad in Mexico and right after that went to law school in northern California, a place I’d been curious about for years.

Life can go in so many different directions… and so much of it seems to be out of our control. I recognize that through it all– including some very tough times– I have become an adaptable, resilient, and empathic person.

Joseph Campbell said, “You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.” I’m not sure whether he meant to inspire a simple acceptance of that life, or a more whole-hearted embrace. Perhaps he meant a continuous dance between both.



Published by CityFella

Big city fella, Born and Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Lived in New York (a part time New Yorker) for three years . I have lived in the Sacramento area since 1993. When I first moved here, I hated it. Initially found the city too conservative for my tastes. A great place to raise children however too few options for adults . The city has grown up, there is much to do here. The city suffers from low self esteem in my opinion, locals have few positive words to say about their hometown. visitors and transplants are amazed at what they find here. From, the grand old homes in Alkali Flats, and the huge trees in midtown, there are many surprises in Sacramento. Theater is alive is this area . And finally ,there is a nightlife... In.downtown midtown, for the young and not so young. My Criticism is with local government. There is a shortage of visionaries in city hall. Sacramento has long relied on the state, feds and real estate for revenue. Like many cities in America,Downtown Sacramento was the hub of activity in the area. as the population moved to the suburbs and retail followed. The city has spent millions to revive downtown. Today less than ten thousand people live downtown. No one at city hall could connect the dots. Population-Retail. Business says Sacramento is challenging and many corporations have chosen to set up operations outside the cities limits. There is vision in the burbs. Sacramento has bones, there are many good pieces here, leaders seem unable or unwilling to put those pieces together into. Rant aside, I love it here. From the trees to the rivers. But its the people here that move me. Sacramento is one of the most integrated cities in America. I find I'm welcome everywhere. The spices work in this city of nearly 500,000 and for the most part these spices blend well together. From Ukrainians to Hispanics and a sizable gay community, all the spices seem to work well here. I frequently travel and occasionally I will venture into a city with huge racial borders, where its unsafe to visit after certain hours. I haven't found it here. I cant imagine living in a community where there is one hue or one spice. I love the big trees, Temple Coffee House, the Alhambra Safeway, Zelda's Pizza, Bicyclist in Midtown, The Mother Lode Saloon, Crest Theater, and the Rivers. I could go on and I might. Sacramento is home.

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