Among us, we have had 7 husbands.
We have had 2 divorces, if you count the one currently in process.
We have had one death of a spouse.
We have had one breast cancer survivor.
We have had to worry about money.
We have traveled the world.
We have married younger men– much younger men, and waited until mid life to do so.
We have had children with big issues, and a few with no issues at all.
We have not had any children, and our lives are complete.
We have bones that ache, and have had surgeries to fix them.
We have owned our own business, and we are constantly reinventing ourselves.
We have had one child married, that same one divorced.
We have been sexually assaulted, and can talk about it.
We have fantastic senses of humor.
We are strong, confident women- despite, or maybe because of, what life has served up.
And there wasn’t a gray hair to be seen.
To be honest, I didn’t even know it was my 40th reunion until a few days before it happened, when I was invited to the “after-party” dinner via Facebook instant message from a friend who was coming in from Colorado. Immediately, I decided that I looked just a little too different with my chemo ravaged hair to attend the bigger show. I didn’t feel like spending the night explaining who I was, telling my story, which is still a little bit raw. But I did decide to go to the smaller, “after” dinner.
My daughter called just as i was getting ready to head out the door. “What are you doing tonight?” she asked.
“I’m going to my 40th high school reunion dinner,”
“Yeah, Whoa… is right,” I replied. That’s when it really hit me. 40 years is a really, really long time for anything, let alone being out of high school.
I actually had a hard time believing I was invited to the “after party,” a small group of women going out for Mexican food at a local restaurant. These woman had all known each other for 47 years, and they were all so much cooler than I was in high school, when cool mattered. These were the girls I clumsily passed by with my head down, hoping not to be noticed, while they laughed with ease on the back stairs of the school smoking cigarettes.
I soon realized, while our lives had taken very different paths, we had all lived, traveled, experienced joy and love, loss and heartache. My chemo ravaged hair didn’t matter. The divorces didn’t matter. The disappointments didn’t matter.
At this stage, these things were badges of courage, not mirrors of shame.
We told stories of other classmates.
Of the classmate who made something like a billion dollars (no one would have seen that one coming.)
Of the classmates who had lost children.
Of the classmates who had died.
We no longer pretended that life was easy. We no longer pretended that everything was perfect. Forty years has taught us that a life well lived means mistakes, regrets as well as lots of joy and pleasure. We are honest, and mature, and I suppose we don’t have much time for women who pretend everything is perfect.
The human condition unites us, eventually. Next time, I’m definitely going to the full reunion, and I’ll wear my badges of courage proudly.