My father's 50th high school reunion was last weekend. He couldn't make it, of course, but I remember the summer he and my mom went to his 20th high school reunion. We were staying with my grandparents in the same house on Myrtle Street that my father had grown up in, with the same furniture and the same wall paper and the same books. (I always loved that house, with the cherry tree out back, the clothes line perfect for making blanket forts, and especially the attic -- dust motes hanging in the heavy warm air, caught in rays of sunshine slanting through dust-covered windows, and my Aunt Ellen's dolls still tucked away in boxes just begging to come out and play.)
I was little, only eight years old, but I remember watching them get dressed up for the evening -- she in a dress, hair curled, a touch of make-up; he in a suit, awkward and gangly, excited to be showing off his wonderful wife, his professional success (small town boy makes good in the big city, well on his way to academic renown), pictures of his adorable kids.
Some of this may be me projecting backward on to him as I face my own 20th high school reunion, which is happening next month, with a somewhat disconcerting mixture of trepidation and joy.
A part of me wishes I had more of what he had at my age -- the wonderful spouse, the children, the academic career, the house complete with, yes, a cat, a dog, and at various times fishes, turtles, guinea pigs and parakeets -- to show off at this upcoming reunion.
A part of me is relieved that I don't have those responsibilities and am able to focus all my energies on my friends, on my library, on my craft. (Though who at a high school reunion wants to talk about knitting, and the pros and cons of various fibers, is beyond me.)
A part of me is pleased at the opportunity to present my re-invented self, this happier, lighter, less dramatic self in lieu of that somewhat broken teenager so often lingering on the edges of things, in dark clothes, crying sometimes in dark corners.
Transformation can be such a beautiful thing when it's genuine, when it's carefully, intimately shaped both individually and between people who care about each other. I am wishing that my father -- the man he was at his 20th reunion, the man he would have been now, thirty years later -- were here to share our transformations between us, in all the myriad ways that people can change.
(I also wish that he were around for a good post-reunion gossip, but other people I love will just have to do.)