While fiercely loyal to and deeply grateful for my Antioch College years, I’ve always felt lukewarm about my high school experience in Pingry. As a suit-and-tie Country Day school for young gentlemen where we called the teachers “Sir,” it never felt like it fit my character and I never felt wholly known or seen by either the teachers or my fellow classmates. I was always appreciative for the English Department and for the education that got me into college, but never felt compelled to go to a single reunion these past 50 years. Until the 50 year Reunion.
I’m so happy I did. Yesterday was the first of two and for this lifelong student of humanity, it was both moving and fascinating. We each wore a name tag with our high school picture on it, those fresh, young faces unmarked by the tracks of time and the stories that awaited us. I often didn’t need to look at the tag before recognizing that same face 50-years later, with the same character of expression now brought to a fuller blossom by the stories of a half-a-century of life. Stories filled with accidents, surgeries, grief and loss, hard-won little wisdoms, forgiveness. Each story familiar and yet unique and always interesting, each worthy of a TV Mini-series.
There were 30 of us from that class of 90, 9 who had passed away and many who were there in the stories we shared with each other, the memorable pranks, sports triumphs, funny moments and “whatever happened to…” queries. There was a moment in which each shared a thumbnail version of their story. On the surface, there were a lot of doctors, a few lawyers, some in the financial world and some teachers, with many professing a love for some kind of making music and hiking, biking, skiing, kayaking. A few were raising animals or grafting trees. The swimming champion from that time spent a lifetime coaching swimming, the talented golfer continued to tour the amateur golf circuit, the cross-country champion continued to run. I met two that were engaged in a Buddhist practice, one who spoke about the pain of being gay back in those times.
My wife came on the second of the two days and asked who the cool group was and it struck me, “All of us.” At 68-years-old, we were finally free of the need to prove ourselves, to compare and contrast, to put down or rise up. As one alum remarked, “Everyone seems pretty comfortable in their own skin.” Exactly the feeling I got, as those young fresh faces looking at us from the photo on the wall were now marked with the tracks of time and the path was simply to grow into yourself. (Later I thought it might be self-selecting group and those who weren’t wholly at peace with who they became probably wouldn’t come to a reunion.).
More to come.
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