35 Year Reunion – Part 1

Sprinkled amongst the tipsy college students on the streets of West Chester PA were a number of partiers who could easily have been their parents. The 35-year reunion of the Class of 1971 from Henderson High kicked off last night with a “pub crawl,” and I thought I’d spend an hour or so crawling with my high school pal, Bruce.  Bruce and I were valedictorian and salutatarian, respectively – number one and two in a graduating class that numbered well over 600.  Bruce has lived in the Los Angeles metro area for the past 25 years, and we haven’t seen each other since the 30 Year Reunion, which was our first meeting since high school days.  Bruce gets big props for making the cross-country trek; me, it was only a matter of booking a car from Philly Car Share and making the drive out to Chester County.

I was surprised by the feeling of breathless excitement that came over me as I entered the West Chester city limits. I hadn’t been in town since my mom left her longtime home there and moved to Florida a few years ago. The roads of East Goshen and West Goshen township still look familiar, though development and prosperity have brought some changes. It took several cell phone calls to locate Bruce and accomplish a rendezvous. We met at a restaurant where the dinner service had just ended and the place was gearing up for some live music action. The smokers of West Chester are obviously troubled by none of the pesky legislation that vexes their Philly counterparts; there was plenty of puffing, to both our discomfiture.  After a friendly beer and a bit of a chat, we decided to go in search of other classmates.

We headed down the street to a pub where our e-mailed guided suggested that reunioners might be gathered near the second floor pool table. What we found, instead, was a solid mass of college students toting longnecks and shouting at each other over a deafening soundtrack.  Undaunted, Bruce plowed into the throng and I followed, making our way to a staircase in the back which might lead, we hoped, to saner territory.  Upstairs, the scene was equally ear-splitting, but dogged Bruce continued to push through the crowd, seeking some sign of fellow-travelers.  At the second floor bar, we hit pay-dirt: an enclave of twenty or so HHS alumni whose faces were flushed with drink and the exertion of bellowing over the music.

Earlier, I had confided to Bruce that I was feeling anxious about the weekend: I remember so few people from high school, and neither names nor faces seem to have lingered in my head. Would people remember me? Would they be affronted if I didn’t remember them? Now my anxieties would be put to the test. A woman emerged from the crowd calling my name, a look of unfeigned delight on her face, followed in turn by others. Apparently, I still enjoyed enough minor celebrity to be recognizable to some of my classmates, and I tried to charm my way around the fact that the recollections weren’t reciprocal. It didn’t seem to matter, as more and more people re-introduced themselves to me and I to them, all of us laughing at the toll that 35 years can take on one’s memories.

Tonight, the reunion continues under quieter conditions: the Italian-American Club in Kennett Square, where D’Arcy and I have tickets for a dinner and dance. Perhaps (for a little while, at least) it won’t be so noisy, and there’ll be a chance for a little more than shouted bonhomie.

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