I cried when I saw her. From elementary school through high school, Jackie and I were inseparable, but 12 years had elapsed since our last visit. Several months before our recent meeting, Jackie contacted several of her high school friends, including me, and suggested a mini-reunion for six of us. So, there I was hugging Jackie through tears. We were middle-aged moms but also high school kids again, and a thing like that messes with your head. So, we cried.
It was at our 25th reunion – 12 years ago – that we last met. That makes us 55 now. Jackie reached out to Lorelei, Gabriella, Rachel, Maureen and me via a social media app to set up our 2019 get-together. Like Jackie, Lorelei and Mo had been at the 25th but not Gabe or Rachel. I hadn’t seen Gabe since her wedding approximately 30 years ago, and I don’t think I had seen Rachel since high school. Some of us had sporadically exchanged Christmas cards or done a random check-in on Facebook, but mostly, we remained together only in each other’s memories.
We planned to meet at a lakeside restaurant in a beautiful New Jersey town nestled among rolling hills and lush countryside, near the town where we all grew up, in the northwestern tip of the state. (Yes, there are places like that in New Jersey. Take the turnpike as far north as it goes and then keep driving northwest another hour or so.)
I was staying at my sister’s New Jersey home, about an hour away from the destination restaurant. Rachel came from Connecticut. Mo lives in Pennsylvania but wasn’t able to join us due to a flood that had occurred in her home while she was traveling for work. Jackie, Lorelei and Gabe still live in New Jersey.
Our lunch lasted four hours. Jackie brought some old photos and the yearbook from 1982, the year we graduated high school. Each old photo and nearly every page in the yearbook caused a rush of stories and memories. He married who?! She died of what?! So-and-so always was nice. That other person was a jerk. And so on.
Two of my friends had become attorneys. One owns an employee benefits company. Another is a cancer researcher and one is a teacher at our old high school.
All together, we have 10 kids and we shared plenty of stories about them. Lorelei’s husband and kids even made a brief appearance at our restaurant to say hello. Lorelei married her childhood friend, who was also the childhood friend of the rest of us. Lorelei’s daughter took a group picture. And we look pretty good!
Most of the time, though, we talked about ourselves. We relived a fair number of high school tales, fessed up to our 1980s crushes and flings, recalled each other’s prom dates, and brought each other up to speed on what’s happened since. (Menopause might have come up once or twice.) We were eager to hear about everyone’s parents and siblings since we had practically been part of each other’s extended families.
Our lunch conversation included talk about our marriages, divorces, coming-outs, health scares, religious conversions and all the rest of what makes a life.
We didn’t talk politics. We didn’t talk about our houses or cars or travels, or even much about our careers or hobbies. But we still connected. We still all really liked each other. After the initial tears, there were mostly laughs, with a few gasps thrown in. Before we left, we decided to meet again, which seemed unnecessary since it felt like I was going to see all of them in the hallway at school the next day.