We’ve just returned from Hank’s small town high-school reunion in Washougal, Washington. It’s been fifty-seven years since he graduated. Some schoolmates present graduated in the early 1930s; others, in the late ‘60s. Some never left Washougal. Others came from all over the United States, not having seen their classmates since they graduated. Hank’s bemused expression let me know that he, like everyone else, was searching countenances etched with a lifetime’s experiences for the fresh-faced teenagers he remembered. Name tags helped. Before long the meeting room resounded with laughter and joyous reconnecting. I listened to the stories swirling around me and marveled at the way life changes us.
Hank’s first girlfriend was there. But he went away to college and never looked back. I heard him apologize to her for that. She married someone else and raised a wonderful family. It’s too late to regret what did or didn’t happen, but still…do they wonder, What if?
One of the school’s former star athletes sat across from us. He seemed very quiet. Then I learned that he suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Another graduate, a watcher and listener like me, had brought his book to sell…a collection of memories about growing up in Washougal. I bought one for Hank because the two shared similar experiences even though they barely knew one another.
The oldest graduates there were in their nineties; the youngest still busy at their careers. Committee members’ adult children and teen grandchildren served at the banquet. The whole gamut of life—energetic youth to slow and painful old age—was represented in that room.
I couldn’t help wondering what those polite young people were thinking. I hope they find it incomprehensible that someday their smooth skin will sag and wrinkle, their strong backs will bend under the weight of years. They deserve their time to dream. I hope their possibilities become realities.
I hope their realities include the kind of life-long connections and good memories that will someday bring them back to a reunion like this one.