Donning name tags, renewing acquaintances and mourning the loss of classmates.
Have you gone to a class reunion when a bunch of old people sneaked in, stole all the name tags and faked being former students just so they could eat the finger foods?
I thought it happened to me the other day when I attended my 50th class reunion in western New York. It turned out everyone was who they were supposed to be.
We all were real former students. Nobody was masquerading. Nobody swiped anything, with the possible exception of the tall and bald guy eating way more than his share of the little meatballs in red sauce, an exhibition of gluttony I can explain only by saying I was hungry.
Everyone at the reunion looked older than I thought we'd be at our age. I don't feel my age. I can only assume that we look that age because, well, we are indeed old, no matter how many people go on about how "you're only as old as you feel!"
We went to a reunion and showed up elderly. How did that happen? It has been only half a century.
Oh, some of my classmates retained a youthful look from the days five decades ago that we shared classrooms and study halls. We called them "the kids." And, yes, I think we might have hated them for a few moments. Not long. Just a little bit of jealousy for a short while. They're nice enough people, back then and right now, but their genes are irritatingly good.
I like them. I talked to them. Later I asked a committee member if a couple of them accidentally could be left off the contact list for the next reunion, but they might age enough in the next five years to be allowed to attend.
Weekend of memories
More than a six-hour drive preceded my reunion with classmates and teammates of the past. After checking into a hotel, I went to the Friday night reception and wandered unwittingly into the sea of strangers.
No name tags were used during this preliminary event.
A few of my old friends I recognized immediately, of course, having kept in contact through the years or having run into them during previous visits to my hometown. The features of others were vaguely familiar from greetings at past reunions. The faces of online "friends" were recognizable to me from social media postings. Ssome other individuals — the tallest and shortest among us were most recognizable — became easy to figure out from looking up or down for their faces, then recalling nicknames.
"Ahh, Stretch, how ya been? Is Shorty here, too? ..."
A few, however, after decades of separation, were merely humans standing at the other end of a room in which we mingled at the Elks Club. Good luck saving face during introductions without resorting to finally admitting, "Hey, I'm sorry, but who the heck are you and how do we know each other? Just give me a class we had together or a bus route we shared. I need something to work with here."
"We didn't date, did we?"
Reunion moves on
Some of us golfed together Saturday morning. Golf is a convenient activity in which to socialize. Conversation that transcends shot direction and final ball location can be made up of little more than lies, and the guys you are golfing with will care not the least about it. Stories will be told that are merely more exaggerated than the same story told during the golf outing of the prior reunion. It's all about the laughter.
Some of us went to a homecoming football game between hitting the links and heading to the formal dinner. And by "formal" I mean there was a flier put out about the reunion meal, and it was emailed to classmates. Dress for the event itself was far more casual. Slacks. Some shorts. We're retired now. Half of us don't even remember how to knot a tie.
Each of us wore name tags to this gathering. In the spirit of being helpful, a committee member had arranged for our high school pictures to be put on those ID tags. That idea took a masochistic turn. Did I really want to see myself — or let anybody else see me — with goofy hair and nerdy eyeglasses?
Besides, I looked young on the name tag. A mirror in a restroom told me I wasn't even close to that anymore.
When I walked back out to the reunion in progress, I stopped at a memorial display of people in our class who had passed from this life. Many had been added in the five years since the last reunion. The total of our loss is now 39 classmates. Looking at their faces on poster board mixed sadness with happy memories.
I'm glad someone thought to put together the memorial. It made me cherish even more the time those of us who attended the reunion spent together.
It also reminded me to stay in touch with old friends with whom I was reacquainted. Time is growing short. Five years from now, when the next reunion is held, the board likely will be even bigger.