I feel silly writing this, almost like a romantic 15-year-old, but sometimes a romantic 15-year-old is the most magical person you can be.
A couple of days ago, I walked through the gates of a building I hadn’t been to in 25 years. It’s unnerving, at first, to find yourself in a place you know so well, yet feel so estranged from. I looked up at the stairs that I ran down in glee, age 18, high on the future, the freedom, on the last day of 12th grade, graduation gown waiting for me at home, they looked less steep, smaller. Out back, on the basketball courts, an all-class reunion was underway, the setting sun shining its last rays on the familiar faces I found myself surrounded by. It wasn’t one of those rigid reunions where you sit at a table and exchange professional and family histories to elevator music. In fact, not a single person I spoke to that night, asked me that sort of question. We mostly hugged and smiled. A few old teachers came and went, tears in their eyes; I imagine their source wasn’t the joy of seeing us, but the realization of how much time had passed.
Two or three people from my graduating year showed up, most of the others were semi-strangers, faces I remembered, names that I did not, voices and laughter that shot me back to childhood. The laughter that day. I don’t know how to write about the laughter, it came from a feeling of sudden freedom, comfort, one where all filters are off, and all walls are down. We made fun of eachother, then and now, pointed at people we didn’t recognize, told stories about recess and class trips and dances and skip days and boyfriends and girlfriends and more class trips, trying to put together pieces of a collective memory puzzle.
The music got louder, the older crowd, whose walls and filters are much quicker to fall than ours, just stepped out onto the fake grass and got down. Next thing you know, we’re all with them, arms waving Ys and Ms and Cs and As, then singing the words to “Fame” as if our lives were really just beginning, as if we have so much time to make the world remember our names. Maybe it was the sense of safety, finding ourselves in such a sheltered environment of our past, maybe it was the wine, the warmth of friends, the kindness of strangers, a mixture of it all. A slight breeze blew threw my wet head (line dancing can make you sweat), and I remembered that my hair was straightened and free for the first time in ages. I immediately looked for an elastic to pull it back, but my head felt light, and I went back to dancing like a teenager; fearless.
Most of us headed to an old neighborhood bar once the music stopped. But the minute I walked out that gate, the magic was gone. I was back to being a middle-aged mom, looking at my watch, counting the hours I had to sleep, wondering if I should have another drink, and going home shortly after. I didn’t pull my hair back, hoping to keep the feeling twinkling inside.
The next day, I wanted to tell my husband about the unexpected great time I had at the reunion. But I didn’t, because every detail I thought of seemed silly, unimportant, banal. Ok, so we line danced on the court where I learned to play basketball, where I had fights with my best friend at recess, where I had my first crush on a boy, where I was a girl, where so many of the friends that I have to this very day grew up. It was interesting to nobody but me and those who were there.
It seems that childhood creates a bond that can last forever if we are just fearless enough to let it. I salute all you fearless people and love those of you that I even barely know, simply because somehow you are a part of me, and I am a part of you. Even if for those few hours, when again, we were 15.