At the dinner, the boy I’d known in sixth grade spoke calmly, without emotion. When he finished his words, every face in the group of former schoolmates was filled with horror. Gasps were audible. Men had tears in their eyes. His voice told everyone that twenty-five years ago his two children had died. He’d relied on his friends from long ago for support. We were speechless.
I spoke with a boy whose parents and my parents had been friends when we were children. He was so much more open now, after a successful career and stable family, able to communicate in a way he couldn’t as a boy.
My daring, adventurous friend from ninth grade who, along with me, had been a Girl Scout, gossiped about other girls from high school. I didn’t even hear their names, as she partially shielded her mouth with her hand, but the words, and the tone repulsed me. My good memories of her and our time together long ago were tainted. I knew I didn’t want to continue what I thought was a resurrection of a childhood friendship. I felt sad.
One of my favorite boys from sixth grade still looked clear eyed, strong and straight from arduous and frequent swimming. His smile, so much more confident than when he was eleven, showed him to be healthy, living a fine life. He would be a good friend now too, so many years later.
Another girl, now a grandmother, like most of us there at the reunion, had the same manner as when she was eleven. Kind, friendly, helpful, always in a good humor. It was a delight to see her, know she was real and that whatever had come her way over the last fifty years, had not turned her sour or resentful. She radiated delight in the way she greeted everyone.
And then there was a boy who I’d barely known when he was young, but had grown up and taught in the Westport Schools for many years. He spoke of the turmoil in his life after he retired. His wife had recently died and he had a multitude of problems, all overwhelming. His emotional pain sputtered out of him like the flashes from a 4th of July sparkler. But these flares weren’t from a handheld firework for children. His suffering was huge.
And the most special for last. My best friend from Junior High School, with whom I’d exchanged Christmas cards and letters all these years, showed herself to be the same delightful person she’d been in ninth grade. She was the girl who I’d listened to records with and who I talked about boys with after school. We knew each other well, had dinner at each other’s homes, went skiing together. The time we spent this weekend rejuvenated a friendship that had been dormant, with her in California and me in Connecticut. I don’t have a brand new friend, but someone special from my youth who is again in my life.
It was a good reunion.