Forty years later....

When I try to pull up forty years ago, Daddy is standing there next to me. He's wearing a tan and a wide smile; I'm in my white cap and gown, with the navy blue tassle moved to the other side. Then he leaves for his house and I go to mine and eat a piece of decorated cake Momma bought.

Three years earlier, on a sunny afternoon in October I said 'yes' to a ride home from school in a mint green '57 Chevy with a tall, skinny boy with pale blue eyes, clear skin and a scattering of freckles across his nose. He graduated the end of that year. I stayed. A girl of 15 doesn't know one decision decides her future. There wouldn't be a box tucked away in some closet with dried out corsages, silky ribbons, dance programs and a richness easy to call to mind years later. School would become a place I showed up for, at least most of the time.

Not only did I stay with the boy, but that last year at home pushed a too-young girl to graduate early, rent a cheap apartment and get paid for sitting at desk with no teacher. Marry too young, have a baby. Finally, finally, at twenty-five I decided to decide, rather than be swept away by the tides. I chose to quit when we'd barely gotten started.  I moved away and lost touch with everyone.

Twenty years later I braved a school reunion. Walked in with my husband to watch a video of memories not mine. Groups of people I didn't recall, talking about times I hadn't had. Left an hour later feeling empty and vowed I wouldn't go to another.

Twenty more years went by. Our kids are grown with kids of their own. There was to be a 40th reunion, and nothing in me wanted to repeat that unfun time of crossing the country and seeing a lot of people I didn't remember who didn't remember me. Then we started connecting as a group on social media; former classmates started joining the group. The cheerleaders, the jocks, the hippies, the lost-somewhere-in-the-middle. As more and more of us joined in, shared then and now photos, told our stories of the paths we'd taken, where we landed, barriers began to melt away. We grew together into one class of people in their late 50's, hoping to reconnect or connect, mend, heal, remember together.

balloons hiding out in the boy's room

As we spent time in this group, sharing stories, what came out above everything else was the angst we'd all felt during those years. The girl many of us thought was the most self-assured in our group, had felt very alone many times. The boy with unbelievable theater talent, and a wonderful heart, had wrung his hands over whether to ask a girl to the dance.

My very best gift from God ever - Don
Gregg performing 'If I Were A Rich Man' - a favorite moment of the reunion for me
Kris serenading us
Nazarenus boys
Terri and Jeff getting reacquainted
I've always loved, loved Cindi, especially her fun hair!
Roland and Don on streamer-hanging duty
Mick - sat behind me in most classes
Toni and Norm
Allan and Wendy 
Tim hanging out in the crowd
Double trouble!
Penny is always such a good sport!

air guitar karaoke with Roland!
me with my dear, dear friend Susan
So first, I had a blast! That night was everything I hoped for and then some. I laughed and danced and kissed a few of the 'boys'. Soaked it all in and stored it up, knowing many of us won't see each other for another five years and some of us will be gone by then. Our class has already lost almost 30 members.

 Second, it's been two weeks since that night. We've stayed in touch, reminisced about that night, and continued to share what's going on in our lives today. In conversations since then many of us have spent time going down those rabbit trails, the 'what if's'. What if I'd done better in school? What if I'd gone to college? What if I'd waited to marry? What if I hadn't married him/her at all? What if I'd married someone else entirely, taken a completely different path? What if I'd been brave and played a sport, or tried out for a part in the school play? Asked the girl to the dance? Told him/her how I really felt? Stayed in school? Been more out-going, instead of worrying what everyone else thought?

I've had some of those thoughts myself. But life doesn't give do-overs, and I am comforted by a couple of verses:

'For I know the plans that I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 and
'And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

My pea brain can't figure out what if I'd tried harder, made better grades, gone to college, had a different career, married a different boy, lived other places, made other choices. I look around me now, at 32 years with a wonderful man and three kids who wouldn't have been a part of my story if I hadn't taken the path I did. I'm not that girl who would want to make every mistake again; I'd change some big things; make some very different choices if I could go back and do it all again.

But that's not how life works. There's a song my husband and I both love that has a line...

 "This much I know is true, That God blessed the broken road, That led me straight to you. 

That evening, two weeks ago, with friends from so long ago made me realize I'll likely look back for the rest of my life and wonder how it might have been if I'd made different choices. I also realize I have to live in the here and now; forty years later I'm so grateful God has scooped up the messes I made, the blessings I missed, and somehow made something beautiful out of my life.

Plans are already being made for our 45th reunion. We're staying in touch, talking about how our backs and knees are hurting from too much fun that night, who has the most beautiful grandchildren, where to retire, how to retire, etc. etc. etc.

Life is good, looking back and straight ahead.


Anonymous said…
I just saw this post today. I have a milestone high school reunion coming up next fall. I'd decided not to attend, but reading your post has made me reconsider.

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