I have a strained relationship with the idea of reunions. History (personal) has a lot to do with it, but also aspects of my sensibilities. There are people very dear to me and getting together with them is always desirable, even if opportunity is a target difficult to hit. Others…I don’t mind, but I don’t actively seek or even anticipate seeing them. And then there are groups of people with whom I share so little that I wonder at the very idea of getting together. Why?
Recently my high school reunion happened. Fifty years. I saw the notices, sure, and after a while I realized I had no moment of connection that suggested this was something worth doing. There are a few people I knew in high school and I still associate with them (my best friend, for instance). I kept in touch. The others? Now, I don’t mind owning the fact that this is as much my fault as anyone else’s, but I was never much part of the scene, any scene, back then, and wandered through 4 years of high school all-too-often scratching my head in wonder at just what was going on. I learned to go through certain motions as if I understood, but I felt through most of it like a visiting alien from Alpha Centauri trying to figure out the local customs and rituals. As to personal connections, I don’t know what others felt about me, but I never sensed much interest on their part. Getting out was my primary interest in the whole experience, so why would I go somewhere to celebrate something which clearly meant something to a lot of them that I never quite got?
I saw a photograph of the attendees posted after the event and I recognized not one face among all the aged and wizened people. They got old. I have, too, but somehow I don’t feel old, not like that. I honestly don’t know what I would have to say to any of them.
On a more personal level, we attended my partner’s family reunion over the weekend. A modest gathering, just her siblings and their partners. I like them. I would never in a million years (as they say) attend a reunion of my family. Even as a kid, hanging around with many of my cousins, aunts and uncles, and so forth, I felt virtually no connection. Nothing toxic, but nothing that made me want to remain in contact the way some families do. Again, this is more me than them. I don’t do that kind of association. Since my teen years I picked my family from among those who became close, closer to me than I ever felt by way of blood. And over the years, some of them have fallen away, new members have joined, and we go on, knowing that any “reunion” would be superfluous because we are not structured that way.
I suppose there are expressions of sentiment I have never embraced, or been embraced by.
I think too often these things like high school reunions, while well-intended and for some quite wonderful, come across to some of us—me, for instance—like afterthoughts. One becomes an accoutrement in the bric-a-brac of other people’s lives and as time passes, the attempt to cling to what was requires reaching out to whatever remains of those times. And then, of course, there’s a certain revisionism that happens, memory plays tricks, or we would rather not recall what really happened. I recall being an object of puzzlement to most of the people I knew back then, ignored for the most part, occasionally resented, but I never felt seen much less understood.
And that’s okay. For me, anyway. The best part of my life happened after leaving high school. What went on there is of some historical or topical interest, but almost no sentiment is attached. I too often ran afoul of all the social things going on then primarily because I didn’t know the rules, but then no one explained them, so I came to believe no one cared one way or the other that I had even been there.
And, I repeat, that’s okay. Who I am is not defined by that time.
But I should explain that I would have no problem (and may even welcome) sitting down with one or two at a time, here and there, and kicking the memory ball around. That is where I find the preferred connections. Not in big group things. We are individuals, first and foremost, and as such I have remained pretty aloof from most of the “important” social identity collations. (There is one group I would welcome such a get-together with and I trust they know who they are, but those connections are still personal and individual. Any reunion would simply be the means to have those one on one encounters, because they would be based on genuine one on one connections.)
This is me being that kid of Alpha Centauri still who watches all this with bemusement and a certain anthropological interest. I am not a joiner and I have learned over time that I distrust very large gatherings. And, sure, I’m getting older, too, so I find it difficult to hear conversations in large groups. It’s a thing.
I did have a good time at the family gathering. It may not be my natural milieu but if there are people who have always mattered showing up, I welcome it. I do not write this to judge or offend but to sort my reactions and my thoughts and try to understand. But also to remind myself (and others) that I am not a reflexive part of anything. I do very little “just because it’s a thing everybody does.” I know this bothers some people, and I’m sorry for that, but there it is.
Thank you for your time while I indulge some musings.