The older I get, the more important and pleasant I find reunions. Asked to speak (briefly) at my Kirksville, Missouri, High School reunion, I listed our top ten reasons for coming.
10. Because we can. We’re still walking, even if it’s with a knee or hip replacement. We’re still social, even if we don’t know to whom we’re talking. We’re still able to find our way here, once we find our car keys.
9. Because we enjoy talking to people for whom history begins before WW II rather than before 9/11. People for whom fast food used to mean a bologna sandwich. People who don’t say huh when you mention Roy Rogers, Doris Day, Baby Snooks, Ma and Pa Kettle, or Jack Benny. People who can at least hum “You Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hound Dog” and “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window.”
8. Because we’re curious. What do our former classmates look like? Sound like? What are we doing? How much have we changed?
7. Because we value old friends. People we knew during a vulnerable period. People who don’t ask what our hometown is near. People who share some of our most vivid memories.
6. Because old friends value us. They remember us when we were energetic, smart, athletic. They remember our first triumphs. They really want to know what we think.
5. Because they listen to old stories no one else will. All the guys’ ears perk up when anyone mentions Coach Spainhower. Remember when Miss Kallenbach raved about the young senator and war hero who wrote Profiles in Courage? Can you name the two poems Mrs. Bailey assigned you to read aloud for a tape recording? One of mine had a refrain: “Let me live in a house by the side of the road/And be a friend to man.”
4. Because the reunion is the easiest item on our bucket lists. Less risky than skydiving, exploring the Amazon, or driving to Alaska. Less annoying than mastering social media. Less frustrating than finding a job for a boomerang relative.
3. Because we’ll celebrate any occasion with a big number in it. A wedding anniversary, an offspring’s birthday, an organization’s founding. Earning a master’s, being drafted, joining the Peace Corps.
2. Because I never get everything on my to-do list done anymore, I skipped 2.
1. Because sharing those days made us part of each other. In high school we explored the adult world and discovered ourselves. Our experiences—those we shared and those we kept secret—bind us together.