by Risa Green
If you happened to read my post last week, you may recall that I attended my fifteen year college reunion  over the weekend. I don’t know if every college does it this way – I’m assuming they do – but at mine, all of the reunions are the same weekend, which is also the same weekend as graduation. On the airplane on the way there, I sat behind a woman who was going back for her ten year, and across the aisle from me was a woman who was going for her daughter’s graduation. At our hotel, there were people from the class of ’84, the class of ‘04, and even the class of ’59. Which is pretty cool, when you think about it. All of those people at different stages of their lives, all connected through a common experience at a university. But when you break people’s lives down into five and ten year increments, the contrasts – and the similarities – are pretty striking. For example, a guy I met who was there for his five year said that he was going to weddings every weekend. The woman on the plane going to her ten year didn’t have kids yet, but said that a lot of her friends are getting pregnant, or starting to talk about getting pregnant. Just about everyone who was there from my year still had kids in strollers, or just out of preschool, and the people who are ten years older than us were there with their teenagers, hanging out anxiously around the admissions office. It was like taking a glimpse into your past and your future, all at the same time.
On Saturday afternoon, there was something called the Parade of Classes, where each reunion class lined up with their class banner and walked down the middle of campus, from the oldest to the youngest. I looked behind me at the five and ten year reunion groups, and I looked ahead of me at the twenty and twenty-five year reunion groups, and I was reminded of something I wrote in last week’s post, where I said something like, as much as it’s fun to look back, sometimes it’s more exciting to look forward. And I thought to myself, wow, am I full of shit. Because when I looked back, I saw young, fresh faces full of hope and excitement. But when I looked forward, all I saw were people who look like my parents.
The worst part, however, was seeing the kids who are still in college, who volunteered to help out during the weekend. They were running around with their nametags that said ’11 and ’12 on them, and at one point, a very sweet sophomore saw me standing around with my kids, waiting for the parade to start, and asked if we’d like for her to take our picture. Except she said it in this really high, slow, polite voice – the kind of voice people use when they’re talking to old people. And I wondered to myself, how do these kids see us? Do they look at me and see an old mom? Because frankly, I feel like I could sit down in class with them and pick up right where I left off. I feel like I could walk into the bar on campus and throw back a couple dozen beers, just like I used to. I feel like I’m still the same age I was when I graduated. So it was that I had to hold my tongue, and keep myself from telling this girl that she’d better not blink, because if she does, she’s going to find that she’s fifteen years older, with a husband and two kids, staring at a college sophomore and wondering where the time has gone.
All of that being said, however, I did have fun. Although the turnout was pretty pathetic (note to self, fifteen must be an off year), I enjoyed seeing the people who did show up, and I was surprised that just about everyone really did look more or less EXACTLY the same. Which I guess is a pleasant little trick that our minds play on us as we age, because we clearly don’t look exactly the same, or that sophomore girl would not have used her old person voice with me.
What was not that much fun, however, was dragging my kids around campus. If anyone is planning to take their children to their college reunion, let me share with you what I’ve learned from this experience. Which is: 1) Children do not care to see the place where their parents first met. 2) Children do not care where you lived your senior year. 3) Children do not care about your sorority house; and 4) When you promise your children that in return for their cooperation in being dragged around campus you will take them to the campus bookstore to buy them something, they will whine when they discover that you meant a tee shirt with your alma mater’s logo on it, and not a book, or, even better, a toy. Which is not to say that you shouldn’t take your children with you if you happen to be going to your college reunion. I’m just telling you what I observed.
All in all, however, I’m glad that I went, and I would definitely go back for the next one. Although, a friend did point out to me that in ten years, at our twenty-fifth reunion, my daughter will be seventeen, and getting ready to apply to college herself. It gave me goosebumps when he said it, and I gazed out at the twenty-five year reunion crowd standing in line in front of me, and tried not to blink.