It seems fitting that my 40th high school reunion (New Trier East, 1971) will take place during the approach of the Days of Awe, in the season of renewal and redemption. Lord knows a little renewal is in order. And who can argue with redemption?
To be redeemed, as has happened every decade during reunions past, is that unique brand of bonding that marks relationships formed in childhood, even if those relationships exist more as memories than as living, dynamic processes. Also to be redeemed is that sense of place that comes from being reminded that you have a history, that your childhood was not some misty dream, and that there are other souls who recall who you were, just as you recall them. To have lived during a time and inhabited a place, long ago if not far away, and to taste periodically of its vintage and of its vestige, is the essence of renewal. For it is the old that is renewed, not the new.
Every 10 years during reunion, I wind up, at the end of the evening, sitting around a table with the kids from the neighborhood where I grew up (Winnetka of all places). Some of them were close friends; others simply acquaintances. Most of them I see only during reunion time. No mind; the thread of the past entangles us, if only for that brief but special hour, in a knot that nothing can untie. We are each others' evidence that indeed we had a youth, that we rode tricycles, that we scraped knees and cried, that our parents called us home to dinner from endless summer evenings, that the smell of burning leaves in autumn burned our nostrils, and burned into our souls a permanent nostalgia for all that is ephemeral, for all that is lost.
I think of the classmates listed as deceased, and look forward to resurrecting their memory, too, with friends with whom I’ll wistfully mourn them. Some of them I recall were lovely girls who I secretly admired, even dared to flirt with. It grieves me that they died too young, and now I can't tell them that they touched my heart.
This reunion, like the others, will come and go in the blink of an eye. It will be a welcome snapshot of who we are, a redemption of who we were, and a renewal, perhaps of friendships, but most certainly of the message, that we should strive to live well, and pray to have our days renewed, as of old.