On the morning of June 12, 1986 the farthest thing from my mind was how I would feel about my life in 25 years.
That was the morning of my High School Graduation and to say I was giddy with excitement would be an understatement. Like most teens, my four years at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, California were like a rollercoaster. I can vividly remember moments of sadness and insecurity, as well as moments of much happiness and jubilance. Many a night spent in my room crying to my mother over a boy or friendship I did not understand. Only to be rivaled by the moments of slamming down the telephone mumbling a few words to my mother and darting out the front door to join my friends.
Looking back, I was fortunate to have built a strong bond with a circle of friends, which only became stronger once we all went our separate ways post-graduation. Returning home for holidays and summer vacation only strengthened the love and respect the “Dirty Dozen” felt for one another. Six guys…six girls, each connected collectively and individually. We consulted with one another often on life’s varying major decisions. Engagements, career choices, career changes, baby names — we shared it all.
Over the years our ‘connection’ is not as prevalent as it was then, yet somehow whenever we all reconnect it is as if time has stood still. It could be argued that time and life change things. While I will agree with this at the surface, I can honestly say that I feel I still know those 11 people at the core of who they are. Regardless of what life may change — our morals, our sense of humor, the essence of who we are…is hard to alter.
In past years when the topic of High School reunions would roll around I can honestly say I was pretty unaffected. I felt well connected to the people I truly knew and loved, so why build on that?
Late last year I began reconnecting with some past classmates. I had forgotten how much I actually enjoyed them and how much of our childhood we actually shared. Shortly following that connection the topic of our 25th High School Reunion arose.
As if I were 16 again preparing for Homecoming Week, I actually became excited. I must admit, I was taken a bit off guard by my excitement. There is a lot you can recreate during the course of 25 years.
Somehow during that time I had recreated myself to be a ‘mean girl,’ in high school. I had a lot of friends, boyfriends were sparse and few attended the same school as I and I remember myself as very catty and judgmental. Looking back — isn’t that what teenage girls do? I guess I was typical, but as an adult I did not really approve of that girl.
Slowly and surely (via a closed Class Facebook page) we all began ‘talking.’ Many conversations streamed through the page and others were held privately via e-mail or telephone. Soon we all realized that we had truly grown up. The past was the past and we were genuinely just excited to see one another and have a little ‘middle-aged’ fun.
As the months went by, the embarrassing photos surfaced, laughs were plenty and the sarcasm…well, let’s just say I never realized what a witty group of people I grew up with. There was lots of teasing and taunting, all in good fun.
The moment I knew this reunion was going to be amazing was the day I realized we were all able to finally, truly laugh at ourselves.
Late last month, thanks to the planning and commitment of a dedicated Core Four a Reunion Picnic was hosted in San Mateo followed by a ‘Grown-Up’ evening.
That afternoon as I rounded the corner to face my classmates I truly felt at home. There was no apprehension, no insecurity — just hugs, laughter and amazing conversation. The evening that followed was just as joyous. If you allowed yourself, you could truly feel the love in the room.
That evening as I went to bed in the guest room of a lifelong friend’s home I realized something powerful. The more you learn and discover about others, the more you learn and discover about yourself.
There were just as many in the room that night that hated high school, as well as loved it. Some attending truly were ‘mean girls’ and others perhaps…just plain clueless — but those details are no longer important. Like the death of a loved one, that night the fond memories outweighed all the bitterness and resentment. It is called the past for a reason and that is where it was left.
It was not a night of networking and business card exchange. It was a night filled with much conversation of past, present and future. Simply put — just discussing life and all that entails.
As I hugged one of the Core Four on my way out I could not help myself, “Now what?” I asked. There had been so much fun, such a connection. We were no longer insecure teens. We were now a large group of ‘middle-agers’ who really seemed to like one another and the fun we brought out of one another.
Now, 25 years post graduation I can honestly say I feel blessed. Happiness, heartbreak, accomplishment, failure — they have all been present during my post high school journey. Yet somehow I can only feel fortunate to have been able to have the opportunity to once again cross the path of some truly amazing people.
Some might say, reunions are not ‘real life.’ Yes, it’s a jaded opinion, but one I realize exists. To that point I can only say, life is what you make it. If you approach an event as if it is not ‘real life’— well then I guess for you it is just ‘another night out.’
Speaking for myself I can honestly say, that evening I learned I was actually a girl who ‘was always laughing and smiling’ and my Class of ’86 was comprised of a group of people who gave me reason to laugh and smile often. Not bad for an epiphany…25 years in the making.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.