Mary's Farm: High School Reunion
I didn’t come out of the oven here, as the old folks like to say. I’m originally from New Jersey. Growing up, visiting my New England relatives, I vowed to one day make this place my home. And, after college, I did, pushing off from the shores of the Old Country, arriving here eager to pledge allegiance to the promising New World of New England. I’ve never looked back.
Until last May. My high school in northern New Jersey was a small girls’ school, only 28 of us in our graduating class. In the early 1970s, the school merged with a nearby boys’ school and moved to its larger campus in another town. Essentially, the school as we knew it ceased to exist. As a result, our class had never held a reunion.
Then, one of the few classmates I’d kept up with died. Her funeral took place in our hometown. I attended and reconnected with a few others from our class who were also there. Over coffee after the service, we wondered: Where was everyone else? What happened to us all? None of us knew anything about any of our old friends, and yet there’d been a time when we were just like one big family, all in one big old house of a school. I viewed it all as if through a thick fog.
Then and there, we hatched a plan for a reunion. We searched the Internet for our old friends and found them all, discovering that two more members of our class had passed away. It had been 43 years since we’d last been together. Time to gather.
On a weekend in May, 16 of us attended, some flying in from far and wide. We had dinners together, lunches, and brunches, and we hired a little schoolbus to trundle us around to various places we remembered so fondly. The din onboard could have drowned out the roar of a jetliner. The fog began to clear.
We remembered things as small as passing notes in the back of the classroom (most of us) and as amazing as finagling into Paul McCartney’s hotel room when he was on tour (three of us). We discovered we’d become librarians, Greenpeace activist and architect, innkeeper, artist, musician, writer, teacher, lawyer, champion equestrian, designer, data analyst, real estate agent, businessperson, and, of course, mother. We were no longer frozen into the photos of our yearbook. We’d lived lives, without one another, for better or worse.
We’d lived in many different places, near and far. Most of us had married, and most of us had had children and grandchildren. Many of us had lost our parents or were dealing with the difficulties of their final years. Some had lost husbands and brothers. Many had experienced divorce; some had survived serious illnesses.
A labyrinth of paths had led us to where we were that weekend. Being together again, it seemed that no matter what we’d been through, here were our old friends, just as they were, still there to share with, to remember with, to laugh with, even to cry with. Like family. We’d traveled so far, but never so far that we couldn’t come back together again, and recover those bonds so quickly. Here were all my lost sisters, missing pieces I didn’t know I was looking for.
On the drive home to New Hampshire, I thought about all of this. I’ve lived my whole adult life in this very satisfying place and consider it my home. In my mind, the Old Country, like my school, seemed to have vanished, and yet, on my journey back into my past, I discovered that the places of our origin never go away, but rather, they continue on without you. The trip home is never as hard as the one away. I really don’t know why that was such a revelation. But it was.