Catching up on my personal growth

CHRISTINE GILROY

Observer Columnist

Last weekend was DeWitt’s 25th high school reunion. Having attended my own 50th reunion out of state two weeks before DeWitt’s, I couldn’t help but jog my memory to see how 25 years changed my perspective. Picture yourself in this sampling of mental vignettes, which could be from your own 25th and 50th reunions.

25th: Wow, the class beauty still looks fantastic. Don’t let her see I’m still overweight from having my babies. Hide. Why didn’t I lose weight before the reunion! Shame on me.

50th: Wow, the class beauty still looks fantastic. I’m so glad, because I know she struggled to recover from her stroke two years ago. Give her a hug. Ask her how she managed to remain optimistic despite the setbacks. She says being unable to have children caused great sorrow in their married life, but they were eventually able to adopt.

25th: Oh, there’s my old boyfriend. What if I had married him? Better avoid him. His wife won’t be too happy if I stop to talk to him.

50th: Oh, there’s my old boyfriend. We’re both happy with the spouses we have and we know it. Let’s visit and laugh about how the two wings of the high school — one for boys, one for girls — were kept separate by the Cloth Curtain of nuns and priests patrolling in their robes. So different from St. Mary’s Elementary School, where we all were friends together, thick as thieves.

25th: Her Mom died last year. Better not to mention it; she might feel bad. Besides, my Dad died a couple of years ago and I don’t want my mascara to run if I think about that. Pleasantries only.

50th: Her Mom died last year. Tell her all the wonderful things you remember about her Mom and share your grief at your own Mom’s recent death. The heck with mascara. Give her a hug.

25th: The wedding band inventory indicates most of our classmates are married, but maybe not to the original spouse. Remarriage reasons vary from infidelity to boredom.

50th: The wedding band inventory indicates most of our classmates are married, but definitely not to the original spouse. Of 90 classmates attending the reunion, four of us are still with our original spouse. The Big Brag is what anniversary you are celebrating with your non-original spouse. Go for it.

25th: She lost her daughter to drugs. Don’t bring it up. Reroute the conversation.

50th: She lost her daughter to drugs. Give her a hug. Ask her what her daughter was like and listen to how she was trying to stay clean.

25th: Look at that huge rock on her hand. Eeuw, mine’s smaller, let me flip it around underneath while we talk. Good thing I can hide my left hand on my lap while we eat. 

50th: Look at that huge rock on her hand. Then look at our hands — full of knuckles and veins and freckles. We have a good laugh at how we earned every single one of those creaks and crinkles. Our hands show evidence of loving tasks done for others. Our rings are now the hardware of hard wear.

25th: They got married right out of high school. She was pregnant. I don’t know what to say. Better to sit at another table.

50th: They got married right out of high school. Most babies take nine months, but the first baby can come at any time. So what. Children are the great leveler. Sit beside them. You share the joy of having a family. You learn their children, like yours, chose to work in professions advocating for the common good.

25th: There’s that sweet guy who always had a crush on me. I’ll walk over and say hello, because I feel so comfortable around him. His wife is a wonderful person. I consider her a friend.

50th: Where’s that sweet guy who always had a crush on me? I am told he died a few months ago. My heart goes out to his wife, so we reminisce a while.

25th: Who would have thought the class clown would become the wealthiest alumnus? What a showoff. Express disapproval.

50th: Who would have thought the class clown would become the wealthiest alumnus? He must have been hiding his smarts all those years and only his wife saw his potential. Reminisce about how Sister Angelica made him stand in the wastebasket for his antics and accept his invitation to go boating tomorrow. On the way out, you see his name on the tree of donations for scholarships. It’s at the top.

25th: There’s Most Likely to Succeed, dressed to impress, with his trophy wife. They exude good will and confidence. I don’t know what I would ever say to them. Think I’ll check the appetizers.

50th: There’s Most Likely to Succeed. I just found out his wife died last year after a long battle with cancer that included experimental treatments that raised their hopes, but not the outcome. He looks lonely. I’ll take him some appetizers and ask how his children are doing.

25th: All she talks about is her children and how successful they are, blah, blah. She laughs too loud and keeps smoothing her dress. I roll my eyes. I don’t know her that well anyway.

50th: All she talks about is her children, but it’s just the two of us for a moment and she confesses that she is so nervous about seeing everyone. She chose to be a stay-at-home mom. Her husband died last year and she was hoping to rekindle some friendships because she is lonely. I pilot her to the reunion committee table, where we chat happily with others and have a glass of wine before dinner. It breaks the ice. 

25th: OMG there’s Sister Agnes. She’s so nosy, always wanting to know what we’re doing. Stay away from that table. I see she decided to ditch the nun habit.

50th: OMG there’s Sister Agnes. I can’t wait to tell her I had a wonderful career teaching, because she always told me I’d enjoy working with young people. How faithful she has been to our class, keeping track of each one of us all these years. Give her a hug and tell her how appreciated she is.

25th: In for the night, back at Mom and Dad’s after the class dinner. Mom told me to enjoy everything and Dad said I looked lovely. They are so proud of me!

50th: In for the night, back at my sister’s after the class dinner. I wish I could tell Mom and Dad how much I enjoyed seeing my classmates and catching up on their lives. Wish I could still hear them say they are proud of me. 

Maybe what I have caught up on is my own personal growth.