Tuesday, August 14, 2018

"And we were friends and it was good."

I’ve been lifting weights. I kind of like it, but I must tell you, if the idea of an out-of-shape, middle-aged woman lifting weights sounds funny to you, you’re absolutely right. It looks pretty funny, too.
          I work out on Nautilus machines, instruments of torture conceived of and built by men who hate squishy women. Then, when I am winded, sweaty, and exhausted, I do leg lifts, crunches, and things like curls and flys. No matter which way I turn when I’m in the weight room, there’s a mirror in front of me. Mocking me.
          Why am I doing this? Because, like every other year of my adult life, I gained weight over the winter. Because, when I was trying on a dress and had my stomach sucked in, my daughter said, “Just suck your stomach in, Mom. It’ll look fine.”
          Because 1993 is the year of my 25th high school class reunion.
          I remember thinking, when I’d been out of school eight years, that I could have been a doctor by then if I’d wanted to. Now I’m thinking, I could have a kid who’s a doctor if any of them had wanted to. Admittedly the kid would be a really young doctor whose only house calls were to home to have his or her laundry done.
          I remember my 20th class reunion, when I went on a diet and got my hair done and even borrowed my friend’s shoes because they matched my new shirt. I remember my relief because that our name tags had our senior pictures on them because I knew without a doubt that no one would remember me except for the ones I see all the time at school and at the grocery store and once a year at the fair. “Stay with me,” I told my husband. “If no one knows me, I want to go home.”
          “What if you don’t know them?” he asked.
          “I’ll know them.” I was as sure of that as I was that they wouldn’t know me.
          Some knew me and some didn’t. I knew some of them and some of them I didn’t. Some of us had changed dramatically and some of us hadn’t changed at all. Some of us had children who were nearly grown and some had toddlers. A few were grandparents.
          I had a really wonderful time. My husband checked on me periodically. We got home at three AM.
          So here it is five years later. I’m still on a diet and still wondering if anyone will know me when we all get there. Many more of us are grandparents by now and have probably changed even more, so that people will squint at our name tags and say, “Oh, yeah, I remember…” (You say that a lot at class reunions.)
          And it’s a joyous thing, being with people who remember the same things you do. If you’re feeling old, you can look at them and think how young they still look and know you’re the same age. You remember sitting in the same classes, on the same bleachers, riding the school bus for what seemed like hours every day.
          It makes me wonder, while I’m lifting weights and checking to see if I have yet developed triceps and calf muscles (I haven’t), if others are doing the same thing or facsimiles thereof.
          I’m glad my class reunion isn’t the only reason for the diet and exercise, because it’s not a very good one. No one there cares what size you are, what color your hair is, or how much money you made last year. Because, although not all classmates love each other even after 25 years, there is a sense of togetherness developed by memories shared that makes us see each other in a kind light. We delight in each other’s glories and mourn each other’s losses. It is the best of times.
North Miami Class of 1968
          Still dieting, and I’ve only gained about 40 more pounds since 1993. I’m calling that a success.
          Our 50th class reunion was this past weekend. We partied and ate and talked and took a million pictures. We remembered…oh, a lot. We were different now. Our hearing is compromised, our joints either wearing out or replacement models. Doctors’ appointments are a much bigger reality than we’re happy with. We’ve suffered losses and we’ve experienced glories. We mourned and we delighted. And we laughed, walking around and around the room and trying to make sure we greeted everyone. “I missed a few,” I said on the way home. “I missed a few,” a friend texted the next day.
          But not many, not intentionally, and we’ll catch them the next time the class of ’68 converges and gathers in celebration of that sense of togetherness the shared memories gave us both then and now.
          It was the best of times.

Someday many years from now
We'll sit beside the candles glow
Exchanging tales about our past
And laughing as the memories flow
And when that distant day arrives
I know it will be understood
That friendship is the key to live
And we were friends and it was good. - Eileen Hehl

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