Reunions have a way of creeping up on you. And when they do, and you’ve signed up to attend, a sense of dread arrives. At least it does for me, and I wonder why on earth I’m going. If I don’t show up, will anyone notice? If I do, will anyone remember me? Will I recognize people I haven’t seen in a long time, and will I remember their names?
Despite these various fears, I seem to be an inveterate reunion attender. I’ve written before about my 50th reunion at Stevens High School (which I loved) and my 50th at Brown University (which wasn’t as bad as I had feared). On a weekend in late October, just two weeks after my daughter married her partner, our family’s first same-sex marriage, I attended the 50th reunion of my law school class. I had signed up months earlier and then developed the usual anxieties.
We showed up in Cambridge and attended the various events. I saw classmates who have done well – one of them is a Justice of the United States Supreme Court – and a few who didn’t look as healthy as I remembered them. My friend from Oklahoma, more recently Texas, came with his wife, both looking, fit, prosperous, and tanned. Another friend, this one from New York, gave me a spontaneous hug, which I liked. And a third classmate, this one from Washington, told me that he was doing very well but his wife is not. And so it goes, the pluses and minuses of being in our eighth decade.
One thing I noticed. People talk a lot about their grandchildren.
Times have changed since 1964. Very few of us look like we did back then, and many of us are carrying too many pounds. The school also looks different. For one thing, the dean is a woman, the second in a row – she succeeded Elena Kagan, now on the Supreme Court along with our classmate. This is quite a change from the early 1960s, when the dean was Erwin Griswold and all my professors were men. Today at least half the students are women. Our class was 98% male, and some of the professors made no secret of their belief that the other 2% were simply “taking up space.”
Reunion events were held in a new building with luxuries we never imagined – comfortable classrooms, technology everywhere, even a café with bar, and lounges. I don’t recall that we ever had time for lounging, and I almost wished I was back in law school, but then I remembered the fear of being called on in class and that feeling went away.
Change comes in many forms. On Saturday night we attended a class dinner at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge. We sat at a round table along with friends I’ve already mentioned. Across the table was a member of the class whom I did not know. Before we sat down we shook hands, and he introduced me to the young man next to him, a law school graduate attending his 20th reunion. “This is my husband,” my classmate explained.
After the meal, he and I had a chance to talk. I said, “If you’d told me, fifty years ago, that we would be here and you would introduce me to your husband, do you know what I would have said?”
“No,” he answered. “Tell me.”
“I would have said, ‘Sure you will, and I’ll have a daughter and she’ll grow up and marry a woman.’”