This is me with my childhood friend at our 20-year high school reunion a couple of weekends ago. We grew up down the street from one another and spent countless nights staying at one another’s houses and playing Barbies. We endured the teenage years together, sharing the angst of rising and plummeting hormones and obsessing over boys. She was one of the first people I called when my mom died almost 19 years ago, and for years afterwards she sent me cards on the anniversary of her death and made the effort to visit her grave. I officiated her wedding 9 years ago; that’s the last time we’d seen each other until last Saturday. Our shared history binds us together despite years apart. I’m so glad I made the effort to see her.
At my 20-year reunion, I saw friends from years ago–the cliques were still apparent, but many people had softened over two decades of divorces, fluctuating weight, lost jobs and miscarriages. I still remember my first day of kindergarten–my brown dress with orange flowers, my teacher welcoming me into the room, then ushering me over to a boy who was happily playing; at our reunion, that same boy greeted me with a warm hug and we talked together about losing our parents at a young age. His dad and my mom are tucked into the tiny cemetery behind our elementary school, a few plots apart. His wife is the new principal of the alternative education center where my mom taught before her death; she told me that there is still a picture of my mom with a poem on a wall in the center. I couldn’t stop my tears, and the measure of comfort I felt will sustain me for years to come.
I’m not a great small-talker and I often move too quickly into serious topics in casual conversation. Sometimes I hold people in discussions for too long when I–or they–need to move on and greet others. There was plenty of stilted small talk at my reunion. Yet with a few, our connected pasts also helped us to easily share real life. I hold tightly to these moments.
My friend and I looked at each other at 10pm and whispered, “I’ve talked to everybody I need to–how about you?” It took us a while to reach the door as we stopped to say goodbye to people on the way. The alcohol started to take over the crowd and we were ready to leave, her husband waiting for us in the car, ready to drive us to her parent’s house, the same one they’ve been in since we were kids. In the morning, her twin 6-year-old boys entertained me until I left for my home church to see the people who have supported me faithfully over the years, looking older and greeting me warmly.