It’s here: my 50th high
school reunion. Fifty years was an unimaginable amount of time when I
was 17 and now, like a thunderbolt, that long stretch of life is
behind me. My best friend from high school is going to the reunion
with her halo of wild dark hair gone white – like mine. What will
she see? Trim athletes now bald, pot-bellied and lame? Willowy young
girls now wrinkled and thickened? Comfortable retirees who worked,
reproduced, and are replacing a generation of old people who once sat
on New York City park benches in the sun?
In truth, I’m quite proud of my class
of 1963. Three that I know of got caught in the second wave of
feminism and became chairs of women’s studies departments. Five of
us, at least, have published books. Many taught at the college level.
I’m looking forward to hearing the accomplishments of others when
my BFF reports in. She urged me to go with her, but she’s a few
hours up I-95 from the school and I’m across the continent we
studied in school. Also, I felt like the odd girl out back then and I
feel just the same now. As she e-mailed, “Wish you were here but
you would probably explode.”
Oh, and did I mention a federal judge?
Who would have thought one of us, especially a woman, would
accomplish as much as she has. If she’d been born ten years earlier
she might have gotten as far as president of a PTA.
High school was so long ago, yet so
fresh in my mind. I went into it determined to leave my bashfulness
behind. I managed to make friends, and also to grow a persona that
would mature with me. My poetry was published in our literary
magazine; I was gay and proud of it; my ambition, beyond writing, was
to be a gym teacher. One foot was in the circle of high school
intelligentsia, the other in a sneaker on the tennis and volleyball
An altruistic alumna, who became a
librarian, created an internet page for those early sixties classes.
By way of introduction, she wrote, “We came of age in the
mid-sixties. It is hard to believe the changes we went through and
our world went through in the years between 1963 and 1967. Did we
make the times or did the times make us?” What a great question for
us, for any generation.
Did we help change the
world for the better? Well, we sure tried. How many of us died in
Vietnam? How many were arrested for protesting that war? How many
were active in the civil rights movement? The women’s movement? Gay
liberation? Were environmentalists? Pro- or anti-choice activists?
Did any grow their hair, drop acid and become hippies? My BFF
was at Altamont when the Rolling Stones were there. Were others at
Kent State? I know some were hit with cancer. At least two committed
Why do I have no desire
to be at the reunion? Would it really be too disturbing to see the
metamorphoses of these people from dreaming kids to world-weary
adults? Only one was a lover and I ran into her out here about 20
years ago. She wanted to stay in touch, but too much water over the
bridge for me. I have a very full life, for which I’m grateful, and
my seventeenth summer, lovely as it, and she, was, has been over for
a long, long time.
Long enough that I’m
looking at retirement from my job too. When I checked out the high
school page it was clear I’m one of the last to stop working for a
living. I feel like a sixties dropout compared to them. I’ve had
jobs ever since graduation, but just to scrape by while I gave most
of my energy to writing. Looking at the bios on our class pages I see
teachers, ad execs, attorneys, designers and engineers, along with
those who identify themselves as housewives and mothers. As far as I
can see, I’m the only one who boasts of writing queer books or even
of being queer.
No, I have no desire to
see those folks. We sat in classrooms and passed one another in
hallways. We survived high school, adult careers, marriages, marches,
the tech revolution, empty nests, losses and successes. Some of us
proved to be a waste of space, others made a bit of history or
culture or money or offspring. I may be odd girl out again, but I
have no time to review milestones. In my head, I’m still 17,
anxious to get on with writing future stories, to, finally, making a
lasting marriage, to changing the world.
[Editor's Note: Lee Lynch is the author
of over 13 books. Her latest, Rafferty
Street, concludes her epic
Morton River Valley trilogy. You can reach Lynch at
Copyright 2013 Lee Lynch