Posted by: deadmousediaries | June 17, 2011

Graduation: The Sequel – a five-year fast forward from Mitchell Kyd

  In the past two weeks, another group of kids all across the country has been launched into adulthood. After 12 years of intensive preparation, they were squeezed single file through a fleeting, three-hour portal that changed their lives forever. Never more will they be labeled high school students; they are now graduates.

    Another momentous event in their young lives already awaits them just five years down the road. It will be far more traumatic than their graduation ceremony. I like to call it graduation, the sequel: the ominous class reunion.

   Beginning in April, there were graduates from the classes of 2009, 2004, 1999, and 1994 who had already begun their prep work in earnest for those anticipated invitation letters and e-mails. Rigorous diets, tanning sessions, and dates on the Stairmaster have been the hottest moves in a frantic dance to deny aging and to maintain or transcend the high school image their yearbooks have frozen in time. Airbrushing any bad personal choices or redefining any little employment embarrassments have also been appearing on the radar and their to-do lists.

    At the five-year reunion, physical appearance is the target of most conversation. A certain segment of attendees, female and male, will arrive secretly hoping that the cheerleaders have all grown fat. Some of the boys who have evolved into men will be ogled wistfully by the same young women who would never have given them a second look just five years ago. It will be obvious that other guys, some who ruled the school at 17 or 18, missed the bus to maturity. Their attitudes and antics are the same as they were in high school but that sophomoric humor has somehow lost its charm and they are left to wonder why.

    Swapping stories at the five-year means comparing notes on the best spring break ever and then commiserating about the demands of the working world. It won’t matter if the topic is the dream job that was the target of a college education or if it’s the unsatisfying work that fills the gap to temporarily pay the bills. The complaints will all be similar: the boss, the hours, the coworkers and Oh!how easy life was back in high school.

    At the ten-year reunion, the cumulative effects of everyday living will be harder to camouflage and the sales of hair dye, body shapers and laser treatments will get a little boost throughout reunion season. The night of the big event, whispers and winks will be exchanged around the hotel ballroom about who has had a little nip and tuck, who might already pulling down a six-figure salary and whose three kids are already out of control.

    By year 15, the old rivalries among class members start raging again but this time the battle is fought through their offspring. It begins in the parking lot; challenges are publicized by way of bumper stickers. An SUV bumper declares: My child is a honor roll student at St. Vincent’s Academy. The retort is posted on the truck parked next to it: My black belt can beat up your honor student. (Five years later that silent battle will have escalated to a new level. New window clings broadcast My Son is a U.S. Marine. The hybrid next to it proclaims: Proud to be a Penn State Parent.

   Event #5, the 25th, is the high water mark of high school reunions. For some, duct tape will be needed to put a temporary hold on the effects of gravity that required only a thin strip of cosmetic tape just five years earlier. Comfortable shoes define the new dress code. The conversations are lively among the mix of empty-nesters, first-time grandparents and the career-driven who are approaching their zenith. The cloak of invincibility that covered everyone at graduation has been wearing a little thin but the holes are now apparent. Conversation on the long drive home will include the growing list of names that had been read before that moment of respectful silence.

    A new set of power players has already evolved by the 30-year reunion. There will be more classmates who are mindful, humble and full of grace knowing that they have dodged the In Memoriam list for another round. Their attitudes of gratitude change the event dynamic and shape the conversation. Extra pounds, wrinkles and bald heads will make less difference to more and more people who recognize their good fortune at leading simple, happy lives. (And besides, there isn’t enough Lycra, Botox or hair weave that can now deny nearly 50 years of authentic living!).

    As attendance dwindles over the years, the real purpose of reunions becomes more meaningful. Classmates return because they want to reinforce the glue of the old stories and to see their lives reflected in the lined and crinkled faces of old friends. And with fences mended with the old rivals, there is more time left for important conversations, including who’s granddaughter rocked the honor roll the same week she earned her black belt.

 


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Responses

  1. Then there’s the 50th. The class hunk has morphed into Jabba the Hut, the class vamp is still spilling over the top of her decollete but with a little more jiggle, and the main topic of conversation is Diseases I Have Had and the Treatments thereof. In excruciating detail. And yet and yet … for those who still had their hair and their spouses and could see–and even touch–their feet, it was kind of fun.

  2. Please call me. I have been thinking of you lately. I miss you. I may have an opportunity for you. I think it’s time for dinner… 😉

  3. You nailed it. I will be going to the next one, as I skipped the last few. It’s always fun to connect to those old days, friends and faces, regardless of what’s transpired and to celebrate our rite of passage together once more.

  4. So funny and true. I’ve been trying to get my best friend from high school to come to a reunion for years. At the 5 year, she was “too fat” and I assured her that each reunion people get less impressed with what we look like and all the clicks are gone….we just had our 35th and each one gets better and better.


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