CRA’s Class of 1986 will meet this weekend for a reunion.
It’s been 35 years since this class graduated from the Academy, and that’s difficult for me to process for any number of reasons. I was an eighth grader when these guys and girls were seniors. I remember them as older enough so as to be just outside my social orbit. I remember liking them, looking up to them, wishing I could hang out with them but knowing my humble place on the social ladder of the mid-80’s wouldn’t allow it.
To a person, they were always kind to me, in no small part because my older brother was part of their class. Because of him, I was probably given a free pass at times when I otherwise would’ve been ignored or chased away. I’m thankful for the grace I received.
Thirty-five years. We’d fit right in at Grandparents’ Day now. So much has happened. Their class, like my own, has suffered the untimely deaths of classmates. The Class of 1986, like my Class of 1990, has seen some thrive and others struggle mightily. Sweet success and profound sorrow are represented in the stories behind those faces on their class composite portrait. It’s true not just of 1986 graduates, but of every class in every school. As Bruce Hornsby told us way back in ‘86: That’s just the way it is.
When you think about the gray hair, the scars (physical and otherwise), the wrinkles; when you consider how life floats you to unexpected heights, then dunks you sputtering under a wave of setbacks and losses; when you feel the weight not of added pounds or arthritis so much as the world-weariness that can accompany such a vast body of experiences — when you arrive at the intersection of all of the joy and all of the rest, three decades’ worth of life racing by in four directions, there is perhaps one word that best summarizes the whole of it:
How in the world did they — did we — make it this far, to this present, perhaps carrying for too long the bruises and grudges of youth? The happily-ever-afters, the divorcees, the doctors, the patients, the homemakers, the homeless, the preachers, the doubters — every story that shows up to every reunion is a wonder all its own.
My theory is that sometimes it takes this long — 30 or 40 years, maybe — for fists to unclench as long-held grievances dissolve, for striving to give way to acceptance, for comparison and competitiveness to yield to compassion and camaraderie — the sclerosis of insecurity becoming certainty.
I don’t know how much, if any, of this truly applies to the Class of 1986. I know that other classes have given voice to this sense that all of the things that seemed so important — the long list of grievances so unforgivable all those years ago — finally give way to a sense of how good it feels to see and hear and hold the people with whom you shared some of the most formative years and experiences of your life.
To the Class of 1986, as you gather in person (and because it’s 2021, via Zoom) this weekend to lay eyes on one another and celebrate 35 years of history: Congratulations! May the memories and laughter flow freely all weekend, and we’ll hope to see you again in five years (or sooner!).
There is, by the way, an All-80’s class reunion being planned for mid October. If you’re an alumnus of that era, I hope you’re planning to attend. (If this is news to you, drop me an email and I’ll get you some information.) Show up not in spite of your grievances, experiences or struggles, but because of them. These are your people.