The Right Time

The month of June is a gift, a promise of summer pleasures to come. July is the summer’s height, a month of late sunsets, fresh produce, and long vacations. But by August, summer is at its expiration date, its texture grown tough, its taste less pleasing. August’s main promise is that after 31 days, it will give way to September. It’s a month to be endured by any means necessary. To that end, I’m doing a few summer repeats—running some posts originally intended for the Off-Topic Tuesday series that appeared briefly here back in the spring, starting with the following, which originally appeared in slightly different form at my first blog, the Daily Aneurysm, on August 1, 2003:

Down among the reeds and rushes
A baby boy was found
His eyes as clear as centuries
His silky hair was brown

Is there anything in life that makes you feel more profoundly ambivalent than attending your high-school class reunion? I am leaving for my 25th in a little while, and my scales are balanced almost exactly—I don’t want to miss it, but I don’t want to go, either.

Some people undoubtedly get the same grim rush from a high-school reunion that they might get by slowing down at an automobile accident—you want to see what happened to the people involved, and when you do, you’re glad that it didn’t happen to you. For others, the reunion is a sort of competition—showing the folks in the old home town how well they’re doing, whether they’re doing well or not. Some people use it as a motivator for some sort of personal improvement—lose the weight, get the hair weave, marry the trophy wife before the reunion.

There are as many different motivations for going as there are people to go. Some people go to make contact with old friends now lost. But I am in touch with everyone in my high-school class that I want to be in touch with, so I don’t entertain any such fantasies. For me, the best part of going is that I will see some people I don’t see often enough, but they are all people I don’t need the excuse of a class reunion to see. So I am going out of a sense of obligation, mostly. I haven’t missed a reunion yet, and I was asked to serve as banquet MC, which appeals to the ham in me for which no can is big enough.

So it will be fine. Really, it will. I’m sure. But the evening is not without potential pitfalls. I fell into one of them at my 20-year reunion. A woman came up to me and started talking about old times, things we had done, groups we were in, mutual friends we had—but I had no idea who she was. That was uncomfortable enough, but when she told me her name, I still didn’t remember who she was. Another potential pitfall: meeting the spouse of the old girlfriend, which can be an awkward moment. And there are always people who, despite the years that have passed, treat you just the way they did in school—like something stuck to the bottom of their shoes. It’s easier now to let it roll off your back then it was then, but it can still be galling. For some people, being an asshole is forever.

Too many people on the bus from the airport
Too many holes in the crust of the earth
The planet groans
Every time it registers another birth
But down among the reeds and rushes
A baby girl was found
Her eyes as clear as centuries
Her silky hair was brown

I used to marvel at the bond we had as a class—how we traveled through time together from kindergarten in 1965 to graduation in 1978, and how we’re still traveling now. There was something cosmic and magical about it, I thought, the way people would surface in your life for years thereafter, running into them on the street, seeing them in your dreams. The older I get, the more I believe there’s less magic than I once thought. What bound us as a group in the first place was mostly an accident of geography, no more cosmic or magical than the accident that brings people together in the same apartment building or on the same city block. That sort of bond starts to fade practically from the moment you’re out of one another’s sight. All the proof you need is that out of 256 classmates, there will be maybe 50 or 60 present this weekend. If our bond was all that magical, wouldn’t the magic touch us all?

Maybe, but perhaps that’s not the magic of the magic. Years ago, at the climax of a particularly wild weekend that was emblematic of the times we had together when we were kids, I said to one of my best pals that I was afraid, given that we were in our early 20s, out of college, and starting to go our separate ways, that we were close to the end of our relationship as a group. “No,” he said. “I think we’re somewhere in the middle.” Turns out we were both wrong. Back then, we were at the beginning. And tonight we’ll convene again, happy to be together, and perhaps mildly surprised that whatever time did to others, it didn’t do to us.

Never been lonely
Never been lied to
Never had to scuffle in fear
Nothing denied to
Born at the instant
The church bells chime
And the whole world whispering
You’re born at the right time
—Paul Simon, 1990

4 responses

  1. Nice unsentimental sentiments on your reunion. I’ve never gone to a high school reunion, wouldn’t go if you paid me big bucks. College is a different matter. The problem – what to do about that guy that I barely knew in college who’s all over my facebook page? If I de-freind him will he give me a hard time?

  2. I just attended my 35th reunion. I had a blast! I cant say the same thing for my 25th. It really depends on who ends up organizing and if it meshes with what you would like to do. It really is fun, especially after 35 years catching up. Try it with an open mind and you might really like it.

  3. “But by August, summer is at its expiration date, its texture grown tough, its taste less pleasing.” Utterly brilliant! (As reunions go, I had a much better time at my 20-year high school reunion than I’d had at the 10-year. I imagine I’ll hit the 40-year get-together next year and see how middle age is treating us, but the ones that really matter, as we’ve discussed, are the college/Denmark ones.)

  4. Having avoided all previous reunions, as I got a couple of years away from my 30th I got excited about going. Then Facebook hit, and anyone from HS that I wanted to be in contact with (a small, small list) I could message instantly, see their kid pictures, talk shop and smack, and do it in my underwear in my comfy chair. No need to drive 7-8 hours, pay for housing, child care, and vittles for a weekend. Easy decision.

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