Life Notes: The Class of 1985
A special reunion in the living room

They arrived just minutes apart, and each arrival was emotionally over the top. These were the “kids” from our daughter Nancy’s 1985 Moorestown High School graduating class. They were squeezing in a pre-party gathering at our home before their reunion.

 This was the core group that had traveled together through those volatile, complicated, crazily wonderful years when they began the work of figuring out who they were. The hugs exchanged were with the ferocity that comes from absence.

They are on the cusp of 50, these reunionites, and they have seen a lot since they marched in their caps and gowns to the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

At this moment, they are all married. All parents. And they are scattered now – only one still lives in Moorestown.

Sitting around our living room that night, they hypothesized that they were the last generation of young adults before 9/11 irrevocably changed the world. ISIS and beheadings were unimaginable to the class of 1985.

My husband and I tiptoed around them, pushing the fancy cheeses and crackers that are now their fare. Not one sighting of doughnuts or Fritos or one of their earlier staples: Friendly’s mint chocolate chip ice cream.

 Their laughter occasionally erupted in a house grown too silent with just two seniors living sensible lives in it.

They talked of the past, ransacking the closets of memory: Early rock concerts, how the cut of jeans seemed capable of marking one’s social destiny. They pointed out how their escapades of cutting school to hit the Shore seemed so innocent now in the face of school shootings, Facebook madness and sexting.

I looked at them, these kids who had studied Latin and grudgingly read “The Canterbury Tales” in a town where most of them had the glorious privilege of happy good mornings and safe goodnights.

An hour or so into the pre-party, the mood grew more serious. That’s because reunions are not just about the past. They are just as surely about the present and how it’s gone.

There was talk of working lives that left many of them feeling time-starved. They spoke of a vague lack of satisfaction. Of confusion about the world they’ll be fashioning now that they are at the stage of life when they will be expected to do that.

The world is supposed to be their oyster. But losses already have ambushed them.

Parents have died. There have been illnesses among them that took away their equanimity and their innocence. Words like “malignant” are no longer strangers to them. And what of a country where riots, not pep rallies erupt and, where guns, not choruses of “Kumbaya,” are often the sound track of their lives.

When it was time to head for the club where once the grown-ups played golf and claimed the dining room, there was a notable sense of displacement. This time, they would be the grown-ups, the ones checking on their kids.

Kathy, the two Carolines, Robin, Meg, our Nancy and everybody’s pal Jeff headed for their Subarus and Jeep Cherokees. Vic and I stood at the front door and waved them off with the reflexive, “Be careful!” Suddenly, Nancy turned and gave us one more wave.

I’m so glad she didn’t see her mother close the front door and burst into tears that came without warning.

They were for those long-ago years when three daughters streaked in and out of our lives and drove us nuts, but also gave us the best memories ever.

They were for all the endings that come too soon and all those moments you don’t know matter until you never have them again. No, reunions are not only for those who go to them. Just ask any parent.

January 2016
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