I’m convinced that the 30-year high school reunion is the closest thing most of us will ever get to a ride in a time machine.
Calendar Era: A.D. Year: 1980. Month: 05. Date: 23. Time: 3:00 p.m. EDT.
Rupp Arena, Lexington, Kentucky.
It’s the Commencement Ceremony for Tates Creek High School. A large Graduating Class fills the floor of the 23,000-seat arena—more than 600 seniors. As I sit waiting for the “Ts” to be called, I’m surprised at the number of names called that I’ve never heard of, people I don’t ever recall meeting or even seeing. Other than being forever bonded together as the TCHS Class of 1980, many of us have had–and will have–little in common. Most are part of a smaller group from which they get their identity: Jocks, Tuff Girls (“tuff” was our late 70s slang for “hot”), Preps (well-dressed, upper middle class), the Theatre Group, Rednecks, Student Council Leaders, Band Fags (hey, that’s what everybody called them, I’m just recording), Druggies, Blacks, Brains–those were the main groups. I was in kind of a subset of the Brains–the Newspaper Staff–which is not as nerdy, yet also not as smart, as the hard core Intellectuals. The bulk of the class was mostly Invisibles, not really identifying themselves with any particular group, nothing remarkable about them on the surface–not especially pretty, not especially ugly. They just blended. And few recognized their names as they walked across the stage.
Enter new date…
Ten-year reunion. Not much has changed in 10 years. The groups we stratified ourselves into in high school still exist at the reunion. The ones who have had the most success make sure they show up, and are conspicuous about their success. The beauty/handsome quotients are still pretty much intact. It’s still high school.
Enter new date…
Twenty-year reunion. Ditto the 10-year reunion, except that a lot of the ones who never had looks, now have even less. The strata are still there, though humbled and mellowed a bit by the realities of life.
Enter new date…
When I step out of the Time Machine, and into the Friday night football game at our Alma Mater, I had to wonder if I had punched in the right date. Had I mis-keyed and entered 2020? Surely the class of 1970 was having their class reunion the same night. No. There were the name tags, undeniably declaring that these were indeed my classmates–names I recognized, faces and bodies I did not. Seems everyone had aged 30 years just since the last reunion–everyone but me, that is. These people were old. Their hair was gray or missing. Their faces lined with wrinkles and discolored with spots. Their bodies were paunchy, and their frames shorter.
Wait, is that her, the Girl, the one who awakened my adolescent brain to the beauty of the female figure? She looks like an aunt with glasses and a tired, dumpy figure. And those girls over there? Their names tags say they are the Tuff Girls, but they look like Cougars and poster children for the damaging effects of suntanning.
I wonder, is everyone looking at me, thinking, “Hey, the skinny kid has a little pot belly. He never grew into that nose. And it looks like his complexion never cleared up.” No, I lie to myself. I could crash the party of the Class of 2000 and no one would ever know better. Ah, the self-deception that’s possible through time travel.
It seems to me the guys have aged more and seem less recognizable than the girls. I ask a few people: who has changed more–guys or girls? The girls say the girls have changed more. The guys say the guys have changed more. Interesting. Maybe a perception influenced by the denial of our own changes?
Next, I test the waters of social strata. A couple of Tuff Girls exchange a few cordial lines of conversation–more that I got in six years of junior and high school. But gradually the groups re-crystallize, and no one seems to mind too much. After all, we’re here mainly to catch up with our closest circle of friends, right? Still, however, the distant feelings of awkwardness and inferiority and hurt resurface when a best friend from elementary school—one who later far exceeded me in high school popularity—abruptly ends the conversation with me to greet a newly arriving Tuff Girl. The Time Machine has suddenly reverted back to 1980. But then, time warps back to the present, and I take secret, sinful pleasure in gauging that I’m probably making twice as much money as he is today.
Soon the weekend is over. And the five pounds you dropped for the reunion gets put back on. And you wonder what the point of it all was? To catch up with your close circle of friends? Absolutely. To measure your appearance and success with your classmates? Well, yeah, since we’re being honest. To take secret pleasure that you have more hair, less waistline, and more bank account than that Jock who always got the Tuffest Girls? OK, that doesn’t hurt.
The time machine tells us much about our classmates. But even more about ourselves. Where do we find our esteem? Who are we trying to impress and why? How did we become who we are today? We find some answers in our brief ride on the Time Machine.
But I knew that God had a higher agenda for the weekend. It wasn’t about looking back. And I couldn’t get it off my mind.
Enter new date…
I don’t think there will be a 90-year TCHS Class of 1980 reunion here on earth. I hope there’s one in Heaven. All weekend I wanted to stand up and tell my classmates what happened to me a year after graduation. That I’m not the same Larry Thompson they went to school with. Not perfect. Just forgiven.
I wanted to tell them that 60 years from now, we’ll no longer be measuring ourselves against our classmates. And success won’t be measured in waistlines, or hairlines, or bank accounts, or friends on Facebook. It will be measured against the absolute perfection of God. And no one will measure up, unless you have Jesus on your side.
Enter new date…
Jesus, God the Son, transcended time, became a man, lived a sinless life, then sacrificed that life, so that God the Father would accept Christ’s righteousness in exchange for all our sin. All those who accept His sacrifice, making Him Lord and Savior, go to Heaven because they can enter without sin, as holy as Jesus Himself in the eyes of God the Father.
Enter new date….
Today, if only I could get the message to all my classmates that all the status in the world won’t get you to Heaven. And that all the sin in the world can’t keep you out—if Jesus is your Lord and Savior. Want to know more? Click here for Good News, Bad News.
Do it now, and you’ll be glad you did five seconds after time gives way to eternity. Do it today, TCHS Class of 1980, and see how different your life will be in 2020, and 2030, and 2040, and 2050, and 2060, and 2070…