I came back to the England for my school reunion. I had my hair done in Prague the week before and thought I would loose 5 kilos before the event but that did not happen. This was the first since we left school in 1984, a whole thirty-one years before anyone dared to dream of getting us back together. Was it a good or bad idea?
Luckily my best friend was there to hold my hand. She became my best friend when we were at Sixth form together, a series of events had seen us move and shift our friendship groups and luckily for me we became great pals. On paper we are so dissimilar, if we were on a dating website we would be very far from a match. She is a vegetarian, I shoot pheasants. I go to church, she wants nothing to with any of that nonsense. I live in the countryside, when I am not living overseas and she lives in West London. She is a high-flying super consultant in a specialised medical field, I am not! However since school we have remained good friends. In all the places I have lived with my family, she has visited with her family and we have spent many a holiday together. Most recently we have been attending festivals with our kids and husbands – a great time is had by all, we are very fortunate that they get along too. We were both nervous about attending the reunion, for much the same reason. It had been a really long time.
Another person from this year was uncertain whether he should attend. He wrote a great article for the Huffington Post which touched on many reasons why he probably would not attend. In the article he questioned why it has taken thirty-one years to have a reunion, he thought it might because none of us really liked each other and the ones we did like we hand picked to stay in touch with. So what are the reasons for having a reunion, what is the point? Some of our year group had flown in from New Zealand, San Francisco, Abu Dhabi and me from Prague.
My best friends parents live in our hometown but were away on holiday, this meant she stayed with us. We did think about playing some Banarama before getting ready. We were in my bedroom, trying on outfits, middle daughter giving advice on which jacket and shoes etc. The bottle was open and we were behaving like giddy girls getting ready for the school disco, all nervous anticipation and perfume.
On walking into the room with my best friend, I was relieved because quite frankly everyone looked as apprehensive and nervous as we were. We had already downed a few glasses of wine to take the edge of before arriving and my big kids were going to pick us up and take us home. Luckily my best friend had paid a visit to Prague only a couple of weeks before the reunion, so we had hatched a plan. We were to go, if it turned out to be dreadful, we were to run for the hills or rather to the restaurant where my big kids were and get a lift home. Alternatively if it was all going brilliantly, the big kids would come along before we got too drunk and embarrassed ourselves and drive us home. As it turned out we were somewhere in the middle.
Everyone wore name tags – we no longer looked like the person we were back in 1984 but on seeing a name tag, I expected everyone to revert to the personality of when they were 16. The person I remembered from that time. Of course they are no longer those people, some are way off the mark from that class clown or the really brainy one is now doing something quite mundane. The girl who was a bit of a nerd at school turns out to have had three husbands and numerous offspring and already a Granny. There were certainly some surprises in the changes of the personality. Of course we have grown up and I think the girls have aged better than the boys, some of whom I really had no idea who they were. Thank goodness for the name tags. Some people I felt like I was meeting for the first time.
Then there was the competition edge: What do you do? How many times have you been married? How many children do you have? Some where more competitive than others. I do not think there were any real shockers, they probably stayed away in case anyone tried to blackmail them for the vast amounts of cash they now had. Even so, I did feel the same questions were asked, with the same look of wonder or surprise when certain answers are given. For instance my very clever best friend was congratulated on being married to the same guy for twenty years. Not her marvellous achievements in the medical world. She had the good grace to laugh about it.
Emotions, all the old ones you had, they come around and surprise you. I met an old boyfriend who looked genuinely pleased to see me. We chatted and whilst I am happily married, to the same man, for twenty-five years, it was strange how I still liked him, not in that way but it was really great to chat to him. His very beautiful wife turned up later, they too have been married for over twenty years, so it was a bit awkward when he announced in front of her and middle daughter, that I had given him tonsillitis when we were teenagers. The girls seemed to talk lots to each other and the boys were hanging around in small groups, it really was a replica of the playground circa 1984. The music was all the old favourites from the 80’s but to be honest as great as the music was, everyone wanted to chat to one another.
My best friend and I went home with the big kids just after midnight. We were a little woozy, not too disgraceful. At home we had a herbal tea and chatted about the evening before going to bed. In amongst all the celebrations my best friend had to attend to someone’s medical needs. They had undergone surgery only a week before, quite significant surgery and had overdone it with all the excitement, too much coffee and it was rather warm. He was looked after by her and put in a taxi home. I am glad to say he was fine, we got in touch in the morning and all was well. It was an eventful night.
On reflection, I think Cameron is right. In his article about the reunion, we probably left it so long because we all felt like we were social outcasts in some way or another and have spent the subsequent years building our personalities and our lives. We probably did not really like each other all that much.