My home town, November 8, 2004, 7:10 am
Today is the day of departure. I got up early to bring my thoughts and impressions to paper while they are still fresh. Saturday was the day of the big reunion. What a thought - getting together with a bunch of former classmates, most of whom I had not seen since graduating from high school. 20 years is a really long time.
A reunion stirs up strange feelings, feelings of curiosity, mixed with a little bit of nervousness and apprehension. A reunion forces one to think about one's life, the last 20 years, the decisions one has made, and their cumulative effect. Time to take stock and reflect.
In high school I hung out with a group of 3 girls. The four of us had a lot of fun, we spent a lot of time together, we were all pretty good students, and sometimes we bugged the teachers and provoked them with silly questions, just to distract them from covering the material as required by the curriculum. We played volleyball together, attended choir practice together, went away together on various school trips and shared our first steps into young adulthood together.
But I for one had lost contact. I left my home town at the age of 20 and started a new life on a new continent. I also felt quite ambivalent about my home town since the small-town way of living and thinking had never been my cup of tea. In addition, life in Toronto kept me pretty busy and as a result I didn't really keep in touch with anybody back home. So the prospect of reconnecting with people from my distant past was exciting and nerve-wrecking at the same time.
I had already connected with 2 of the 3 women who were part of our little posse and we had already spent many hours discussing our lives, philosophies, experiences. Now it was a question of convincing the 4th member of our high school gang to join us. Three phone calls later and a meeting was arranged. The four of us decided to get together at noon on the day of the reunion which was to start later at 2 pm in a little mountain village outside of my home town.
The reunion: 4 old friends from high school reunited.
Our meeting was great, seeing people I hadn't seen, whom I had been really close to during an important phase of my life was amazing. None of us had really changed all that much visually, everybody was still slim and decent-looking. People now had careers, family, children. We talked about old stories of mischief and harmless juvenile errors in judgement. We shared tidbits of our youthful ways of looking at life, our teenage torments, and the twists and turns of our lives since then.
We finally convinced the fourth member of our group to join us in going to the big reunion and we headed off to our meeting in the mountains. Our class reunion was set in a beautiful mountain restaurant in a quaint little alpine village. Unfortunately the fog that had hung in the whole week was still hovering above the landscape and no rays of sunshine were to be seen.
When we entered the restaurant we saw 2 tables full people, about 20 people or so and we started making the rounds, shaking hands, introducing ourselves. I immediately recognized almost all my former class mates. There was only one person whose hair colour had changed and who had gotten a bit bigger who looked very different from before. Once we had exchanged photo albums and once my school mates had showed me photos of what this person looked like in the past it finally clicked and I realized who this person was.
What followed was a long evening of chats, of reminiscing, one of our school mates had brought super 8 movies that were filmed more than 20 years ago at various social events, dances and of course our big prom. Two of our teachers were invited and they participated actively in the discussions and shared their impressions of our teenage (mis)behaviours. It was amazing how people's lives had turned out. There were engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, architects, computer scientists, senior managers and I guess I was a bit of a special case since I was the only person who had emigrated and lived overseas for the majority of my adult life while most of my colleagues had stayed relatively close to home.
The atmosphere was great, very relaxed and joyful and everybody looked like they were having fun. People were sincerely happy to see each other. Plans were made to do this again in another 5 or 10 years, address and contact information was exchanged and friendships were rekindled. All the nervous anticipation was converted into giddy silliness and exuberance over reconnecting with so many people from our shared past. I finally headed home at 4 am after an evening of laughter and reminiscing and this reunion turned out to be the crowning touch of my trip.
Read about my travel preparations for this trip to Austria
Here is my Austrian travelogue that I wrote from an Internet cafe in Graz
My reflections as a new writer kept me up in the middle of the night
The Homecoming - what did it really feel like to go back home after many years...
For practical information visit my country travel guide on Austria