Saturday, June 20, 2015

east coast

I was just in New England! We went to Connecticut for my high school reunion. Despite predictions, it didn't rain: New England is having what they call a drought, which is the adorable thing where it doesn't rain there for a few months. (When California is not in a drought, we call that situation "April through December.")

There's so much water in the air there, all going to waste. What a shame. We spent a lot of time being wistful for a place with such greenery that just happens, without a lot of effort. (Sure, if you slack off you might get the wrong greenery, but something's gonna grow.) I mostly don't need my sunglasses out there, which is something I'd forgotten or never noticed. Is it the latitude (41 vs. 38)? The humidity? I don't know.

We went back for my nth high school reunion, and front-loaded it with a couple of days with my parents, which was lovely. Anna's goal for the trip was to gather fascinating and tantalizing stories of Young Chris, and I suppose spend time with me in the process. She got at least a few good ones, including the time when one of my best friends decided to hang-drop off a 1.5-story roof just to prove he'd be okay: he remembered the ER, but his memory left out the part where I hauled him over to the infirmary, made up a story for what happened, and held his hand while they cut off his shoe to look at his ankle.

(I'll make no claims for having good judgment as a teenager, but I did have strong impulse control. When I fucked something up, I tend[ed] to plan it in advance.)

I identified four different kinds of people I see at reunions, which map almost exactly to our relationships while in school:
  1. Actual friends. You're both genuinely happy to see each other.
  2. Friendly acquaintances. You're happy to see each other and content with the limited but positive role you played in each other's younger lives.
  3. People who were indifferent or hostile during school, who now feel able and compelled to greet you as though you have a shared history you can celebrate together.
  4. People who honor the fact that you were indifferent or hostile to each other during school, and that our relationship probably didn't blossom into something more positive over a couple decades of not speaking to each other.
I have a lot of respect for #4, and quite a number of classmates did me the favor of not even acknowledging my attendance. (There were just over 100 of us, so we all knew everyone's name and face at one point.)

 #3 I find a little confusing, and what Anna calls the "assumption of intimacy" is not at all unique to reunions. I wonder if they just have an idea about how classmates should feel about each other, much like parents can have an idea about how a family should interact, and that idea fails to give way to the reality of the people and relationships actually involved.

It was good to see some of the old gang, see the campus in its majestic summer beauty, and see what few teachers haven't retired yet.

We went to a panel interview with the last three heads of the school, including the one who left shortly after I graduated. He's a dynamic, wickedly intelligent and learned man--when I met him as a 13-year old, something in our conversation left me at a loss for words, and immediately my mother correctly decided he was amazing. The moderator asked some question about events during his tenure, and he rambled quite a bit about the guy who had preceded him and the changes in New England private schools around that time. But in the rambling...
And then Northfield-Mount Hermon, which is, strangely enough, now in the Mount Hermon campus, having sold the beautiful Northfield campus to the C.S. Lewis Center for the Preservation of the Most Naive and Backward Interpretations of Christianity..."
It's good to see he's still got it, in his mid-80s.

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