Reunion Weekend and 109 Degrees
Across America high school alumni are remembering faces of classmates from so long ago. I see notes on the doors of restaurants offering specials for class reunions and it sends my mind skidding back. On the road today a disguarded sign read 'Class of 1957,' and I remember my graduation of 1982, the long string of leavings that began then, that brought me here. Hotels bear signs welcoming us all back in time complete with smoke-free rooms and HBO, back to a place that no longer exists except in old yearbook photographs and the romantic moving pictures of our personally edited memories.
Twenty-five years ago I graduated from Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village, CT. I was told then that the years would fly by after that warm June afternoon spent sitting in the sun on gray medal chairs under a blue board hat waiting for my name to be called. Before I knew it I would be a quarter of a century away looking back over my shoulder, over my backpack, wondering what roads my classmates had taken; people that were once my Venus and Pluto, people that were all of my earth, and the young women I was too afraid to talk to that made up the stars in my Berkshire mountain piece of sky. Where had the universe gone in twenty-five years, the universe I knew? Years have evaporated, flown by until I start palpating the vein of each of those expired years, and all of the volumes of change that coursed through their thin walls of illusions, of relative safety, of hope; lives of friends and relations that have ceased living, the promises we made that failed to rise with the yeast of our good intentions, the stories we tell ourselves that we no longer believe but begin to tell all over again, and all the tragic graves we dug for each of our untried dreams we set to rest before they were really dead.
Walking across America is alot of time spent thinking, remembering everything said, remembering everything that was said to me, to you, and four full oceans of forgetting. There are days I wish I had walked slower down the halls of my fluted column high school with my beautiful pimple faced friends skating around me in the vibrating expectation that comes with growing freedom and youth, walked at a snails pace listening to the inner ear roar of four hundred bodies trying to make sense of the nonsensible saturation of change between history class and homeroom, and the times that I wish I ran with my arms out, desperately pulling air behind me toward separation, toward the future and all its sythetic shine. There are the two girls I wished I asked to lunch, to a movie, kissed under the white oak tree behind room #133, and of course the bullies I wished I faced down but outgrew instead, back before the army made me shave a face that didn't grow hair, back before I wore the right shoes and found peace in my own cadence. Back to a time when school was really teaching me above all other things how life is about weaving people together, and how, just sometimes, it isn't.
Still the romantic, I think of the video I thought of sending to my 25th reunion explaining what I was doing, and wasn't doing anymore. I wondered whom would understand among them..then heard the fresh question in my heart,"Does it matter anymore?" Of course, sofly I heard my mouth say,"Yes,...yes it does." We became a family, as odd as any, my class of '82. We watched as seeds were sown into the chests of our classmates, seeds for college, seeds for military service, farms and mothers to be, drove our first miles in battered cars we battered into rust, found love and loss and its child ...hope, and our teachers stepped down from their clouds of separation and many became our friends, our understanding handed back to us in the first flame that would guide us into their world, into our lives, and we could never thank them enough, and that, in itself is enough.
I have walked myself into high desert in WY at 109 degrees and it isn't even August yet. Offered an open house with a.c. from new friends going on vacation, I thankfully wait out a week before I 'm again sipping hot water I carry in large sun beaten tanks on a cart pulled behind me, again sitting when spent under a large faded golf umbrella that is mounted to my packframe; a three foot round of nylon giving me a puddle of shade to melt into, and wait. For now, for this week, I listen to voices gone, hearts and trackless faces I used to know, and in comes a knowing that they are still a part of me, and I them. We were the Mountaineer's of Housatonic (river between the mountains), and have climbed the world because we had each other in blue and gold, in folly and grace.....and hope.