to this older, slightly more rotund man
I think that I definitely won the award for the most number of times that people looked at my high school picture, then looked at me, then exclaimed, "Holy crap!" Saying that I had changed more than just about everyone else there (save one or two) is a mild understatement.
As I drove around my old hometown for a few hours before the reunion, I discovered that I wasn't the only one who had changed significantly in 20 years. Much of the area surrounding my hometown is no longer rural, but is instead full of strip malls and new businesses and warehouses. The old country church that I attended for many years isn't even really in the country anymore, sitting instead on what is now a busy highway and surrounded by farmland that is being developed into several-hundred-unit subdivisions. My high school is completely unrecognizable, having morphed from an asbestos cleaning (three cheers for 1970s construction!!) to a complete rebuild.
But more than slapping me in the face with the reality of how much things have changed (despite my best efforts over the years to deny it), attending this reunion in a way was very cathartic for me. I didn't attend my 10-year reunion, partly because I was living in Alabama at the time but mostly because I wasn't sure how much people that I hadn't really talked to in high school would want to talk to me that far after. It was so refreshing for me to go to this one, though, and it proved to me that everything that I had worried about with the previous reunion was utterly ridiculous. Seeing old friends gave me such an amazing feeling, and in some instances I actually started to develop a great new rapport with people that ran in different circles than me back then.
As one friend was saying, 20 years ago everyone was worrying about dates and cliques and popularity, and there was a certain degree of inequity in where people fell. Now, the playing field is level; everyone for the most part is married, has kids, and was or is in the working world -- and all the thoughts of a social pecking order have long since vanished.
Things went so well that we're thinking of going ahead and trying a 25-year gathering and not waiting another 10 years. Maybe folks will recognize that there is great worth in getting together more than we do, and strengthening the bonds that were always there but that we somehow managed to overlook.