I’ve been friends with the same person for nearly thirty years. We’ve known each other since grade school, and amidst the highs and lows, peaks and valleys that often come from sustaining a friendship during those crazy adolescent years, we’re still friends. Pretty good friends, in fact. Best friends.
We made a pact shortly before our high school’s ten year reunion. It wasn’t anything monumental, really. Just a simple understanding between the two of us. We’d go to the reunion, together. We’d go together to any and all reunions in the future, too.
What I remember most about the ten year, is that it didn’t feel as though much time had gone by. Not really. Most of us still looked a lot like we had in high school, although my appearance was different. I had a hippie vibe to me, when I was a teen. Long hair down to my butt. I carried a man’s wallet in the back pocket of my Levi’s, and I rarely wore anything even remotely feminine. Which is probably why someone had made the comment that I was the most changed.
The last ten years went by quickly, a blur of children, husbands, life choices and commitments, changes in my occupation, a myriad of the stuff that makes life, life. Suddenly, the twenty year loomed ahead, a reminder that another decade had swallowed most of us up, and it was time to go back and be reminded of the kids we used to be.
And, you can’t escape that feeling. No matter how hard you try, or how often you tell yourself that we’re all twenty years older now. There’s still that part of you that clings to the memories of what you’d been, how someone else had treated you, the friendships or frenemies you’d made back then. It’s still the same, for the most part. At the party, I really didn’t associate with the girls who picked on me, and they vaguely remembered who I was. If they remembered the rough times, they weren’t saying.
For some, there was no divide. I reconnected with people who I loved whole-heartedly. The ones who were great friends of mine, still are, really. I also connected with those who I never would have connected with in the old days. Those moments felt wonderful. It was like getting to meet someone new for the first time, that you have common ground with. Something you may have never achieved when you’re on different sides of the fence.
Time has changed me. I think I was a lot more outgoing, although inside I was hiding a shy girl, trying hard to squash her. Now, I’m a little more shy, trying to coax the independent, outgoing girl to make an appearance, to show who she is. My best friend, she’s still the same girl. Fiercely headstrong. She had no qualms about talking to nearly every single person there that night, whether they’d ever been friends or not.
There were moments where I sat alone, reflecting, taking it all in. It was a strange. Fun. Awkward. Exhilarating time. I got to dance. I had a few drinks. My feet were killing me. (I’m still a bit of a tomboy, so I rarely wear heels. ) Afterwards, we tried to go to an after party, but the bar had reached max capacity. We were turned away. We made the best of it by eating dinner downtown, at an all-hours eatery conveniently named, “Kitchen”. Maybe it was the booze. Maybe it was the ambiance, but the food was more than a little delicious. One of the best chicken avocado sandwiches I’ve ever had, hands down.
When I’m asked how my reunion went, I say, “It was fun. But it wasn’t fun.” It’s hard to explain my conflicting emotions. There were a few things I wish had gone down differently, but overall, it was well worth the visit. Spending time with my best friend, another close friend of mine in town, family, friends, and attending a pre-party in downtown Portland where I got to reconnect with the people I love and form new friendships- well, they say you can’t ever go back, but you can. I’m different, but in some ways, I’m still that girl with really long hair and a wallet in her butt pocket. She’s an independent, outgoing girl, and it’s okay to let her out every once in a while.