I got an email from my father this weekend that sent me on a trip down memory lane.
A former neighbor passed away at the respectable age of 81, and my dad sent me a link to his obituary. I don’t think my parents were especially close to Jim and Barb, but they lived across the street from each other for 30 years and were friendly enough to still exchange Christmas cards until a couple of years ago.
It wasn’t surprising that Jim had died, but we were both shocked that his middle child was listed as having predeceased him. I don’t know when she died, but she was just two years older than me, one of these girls who seemingly has it all: looks, athletic ability, all the right friends, a knockout boyfriend.
In an attempt to place the exact age of her older sister, I started pulling out my high school yearbooks. Once I finished with Celia’s senior year, I started paging through mine. There were just 165 students in my graduating class, and I’d been in the same school system for 13 years. So if I didn’t know everyone, I recognized all the faces and names.
Or at least I did then. Now, I’d think, oh look, there’s … um, what was her name? Recognizing another face, I’d look at the caption and think, huh? Did I go to school with a guy by that name? Maybe the yearbook staff got them mixed up (entirely possible, since I was on the yearbook staff). I took the book into the bath for a hot soak that, by the time I was finished browsing, was barely warm. Lost in the past, I barely noticed.
Three classmates, I know, have passed on; I’m sure there are quite a few others. The more pages I turned, the more curious I became: Whatever happened to…? Did she ever…?
I attended my five-year reunion, but intentionally skipped my 10th – and every one since. There were a lot of reasons why; mostly I felt like I hadn’t accomplished anything I’d want to talk about. Besides, I hated high school; why would I want to go back?
But occasional encounters with a human blast from my past have proven that people don’t always turn out how you’d have expected. Sitting there in my bathtub in lukewarm water, I wondered: could my curiosity trump my pride, or my prejudice? My 35th-year reunion would be next year. What might I learn if I went back? Maybe, a lesson that I was too young to understand 35 years ago.