The Way We Are
by Lori Heine

I used to hate class reunions. Now I love them. My age group has passed the point where we’re tempted to rent a Mercedes, embellish on our career accomplishments or endure an Olympic training regimen for the big event. We graduated from high school thirty-five years ago. We’re too old for such nonsense.

Many of the friends I’ve made since leaving school feel differently about reunions. They hated high school, or at any rate were so glad to leave it behind that they have no desire to revisit the past. My alma mater must be rather special. Out of our graduating class of about 300 students, probably 60 or 70 of us still regularly keep in touch.

Facebook must take the credit for a lot of this. People make fun of the social media—joking about those who post that they’re wearing their pajamas, or about what they bought at Walmart. I’m sure there are some people out there who do that. Fortunately, I know none of them. For me, admittedly at first a reluctant Facebook user, the experience has proved to be a blessing.

I’ve been very “out” about who I am today. Everybody in the universe knows that I’m a lesbian, that I’m single and still looking for a wife, that I belong to A.A., and that I’m woefully underemployed and in the midst of a middle age self-reinvention. From my old school friends on Facebook—some of whom were anything but friends way back when—I’ve gotten nothing but kindness and encouragement.

When I first arrived at our latest reunion breakfast, I went through the usual comic shock. Who were all these old people?! The fact that I’m as old as they are—and probably look it—is no less astonishing to me every time I think about it. As I sat and caught up with them, though, I recognized and joyfully welcomed all those old, familiar voices, facial expressions, mannerisms and unique personality tics. Most of us went to school together from first grade all the way through senior year of high school, and spent more time together, in our formative years, than we did with our own families.

I realized that I still care about these people—perhaps now, more than ever. That I appreciate them in a way I never did before. We’re losing our parents, battered by the decades of adult life, contemplating our golden years and unsure whether to look forward to them or fear them. Some of our number have already passed away. A bond exists between us that, even after all these years, has never been broken.

Two of our friends begged off from the reunion, claiming that they are “too fat.” Ten years ago, they would simply have failed to show up, but been afraid to say why. We all shrugged, agreed that it made no difference how fat they are, and missed them. Ten years from now, they won’t care if they’re too fat, and they’ll show up anyway.

“This is how God is,” I thought as we all sat there over breakfast. God doesn’t care if we’re too fat, or whether we feel like failures or successes. As many of us are delighted and very relieved to learn, God doesn’t care if we’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, either. One day we’ll attend the biggest reunion of all, and enjoy the company of everyone we’ve ever loved. Any foretaste of this great feast, however fleeting and small-scale, deserves to be cherished.

 

© 2015 Lori Heine


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