So I was brave and I went to my 20-year high school reunion. The family calendar, busy as it generally is, left my husband and I double-booked for the weekend, so we had to divide and conquer. He went off to one event without a date, and I went to my reunion without a date.
I sat there at the kitchen table the morning of the event, staring at the tickets, and wondering if I was going to go through with it and walk in the door that night or not.
I survived high school okay. I spent most of it hiding in the science department with a small but friendly clutch of geeks like me. I did no sports and went to almost no school events, and participated in two academic clubs populated by more or less the same half a dozen kids in each. In a graduating class of something like 400, I really didn't know that many people. Looking through the scanty list of RSVPs, I couldn't remember most the names and couldn't imagine why'd they remember me.
I don't know. I worry sometimes that I'm not sentimental enough. Like I should be dying to go to these things for some reason, even though I don't feel it. I don't know if that makes sense. (Or maybe it makes perfect sense because most of us feel that way but no one says so?)
There were two girls from high school that I'd have liked to see again; I already knew one wasn't going and had no way to contact the other. As I sat there looking at the tickets with my head in my hands, I was thinking that who I'd really like to see is my high school teachers. What are the odds that they show up to those things, though? Well, probably nobody thinks to invite them. And there I was with a spare ticket. I had my favorite science teacher's email address, who I hadn't spoken to since his retirement years before. Might not be good anymore. He mightn't even have lived in town anymore, but I went out on a limb and shot him an email.
On the short list of four teachers who changed my life in significant ways, Mr. Migdal holds the top spot. It was his classroom that me and my fellow geeks camped out in for lunches, often with the science teachers for company, and it was his environmental science class that gave me some idea of what I wanted to do with my life. He was kind of my Mr. Giles.
And would you believe that he came?
I went to the reunion. There were no balloon arches and it was held at a restaurant instead of gym. But there was a giant cake the same color as our old gym clothes and a DJ playing Young MC and Vanilla Ice. (True story.) As predicted there were tons of people there who I couldn't remember. A few of them were kind enough to chat with me anyway, as I stood resolutely by the hors d'oeuvre table wearing a name tag that misspelled both my maiden and married names and trying not to fall over in my heels. Until someone tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around to see Carole, the one fellow alumni I was really hoping would turn up, and man, was I happy to see her. And then as were finishing up dinner, my science teacher strolled in and we both leapt up to see him.
The three of us ended up in a quieter corner catching up on everybody's families. We heard about our teacher's life in retirement and how his kids are doing. We told him about our kids and our lives out in the working world. I didn't really mingle or talk to many other folks -- just like high school, I guess -- but I was very glad I went. It's kind of amazing really. You think about how many students filter through a teacher's class room over decades of a career. You sort of assume that they won't remember you out of the pack, or that you could even somehow make an impact on their lives even in a little way. And yet by some teacher-magic, they remember you perfectly for being you. How do they do that?
Maybe I wasn't completely the invisi-girl I thought I was, after all.
Note: Mrs. Bates, wherever you are, if I had had your email I would have emailed you too. I write better than I ever would have if I hadn't sat down in your class. It's made a huge difference in my life and you have my eternal thanks.