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Jenifer’s Journal: In a class by myself

My 60th high school reunion is June 8th. Roslyn High School, Class of 1964.

I missed my 50th for reasons I can’t recall. I know I went to my 10th and then to … was it my 20th or 25th? It was decades ago, that’s all I know.

What I don’t know is why. I’ve always been a loner or fancied myself one — in “a class [all] by myself,” and not in a good way. It’s a sour pill to swallow, but maybe it goes down easier than the bitter one of having to admit that secretly I was probably closer to a people-pleasing popularity-wannabe than a natural-born loner. In any event, clearly my high school experiences didn’t match the halcyon “Happy Days” of a Richie Cunningham (he’s fictional for a reason), so why have I gone to any of my reunions?

Masochism? I wouldn’t rule that out, but I don’t think so.

Maybe one reason I’ve gone is to prove to myself that I’ve outlived my unhappiness. Maybe I harbor the frail hope that I’ll be remembered more kindly by my classmates than I remember myself — that defensive, smart-talking 17-year old “me.” Or perhaps it’s just merely curiosity to find out if I’m remembered at all. At our 10th reunion, a guy who looked vaguely familiar came up to me and said, “I remember you. You’re that quiet girl who always sat back in the last row in French class.” 

“That quiet girl” — wow, that someone noticed me before I became the queen of sarcastic comebacks? That’s remained the highlight of my reunion experiences so far.  Let’s face it, if I do manage to make it to my 60th, that may well be as far my reunion experience end’s  up going. We’ll have to see.

I may have felt like I was in a class by myself, but the truth is, I did have one friend. She’ll be at this reunion, too. I’m not sure if a “social circle” can be made up of only two people, but Toni and I did our best. We owe our friendship to Mr. Rothrock’s 7th grade English class and alphabetical order, and the fact that both of us were taller than most of the boys, looked at least five years older than we were (which we loved back then) and shared a somewhat … theatrical bent.

She, however, was an excellent student, while I was a dedicated underachiever. But her parents adored me. Unlike my parents, they thought I was hilariously funny and were happy to feed my insatiable, on-demand appetite anytime I showed up, which was practically daily. Oh, and when her Nana was there, she’d stuff me with homemade knishes and blintzes with sour cream ‘til my eyes popped.

Toni’s house. For the next six years, it was the one place on earth I felt I belonged. Strange, we’ve only kept in occasional touch after high school, and that’s been thanks to her. Decades ago, during one of our long, catch-up phone chats, she told me, rather ruefully, that she had a hard time remembering her childhood, which is surprising considering that, at least from 12 through 18, I remember her childhood so well.

Also strange is the fact that, with all my melancholy, rear-view naval-gazing at my childhood over the years, and my recognition that being a Baby Boomer probably had a lot to do with all that anxiety and alienation I felt, it’s only just occurred to me now, writing about my impending reunion, that in spite of my claim to loner status,  I belong to an enormous Class of 1964 (what’s left of us), across the nation, the world — a class that’s literally “in a class by itself” —the first high school graduating class of Baby Boomers.

Yes, a gigantic generation of human lab rats exposed to equal doses of boob tubes and A-Bomb threats, tiny cold warriors who, as they came of age, would find themselves on the frontlines of free love and L.S.D., etc., who would be tutored not to trust anyone over 30 but, in the unlikely event that they even made it to 30, they would remain relentlessly “forever young” whatever the cost (which, of course, they could always charge on “plastic”).

So, against all odds, here we are, Class of ’64, burrowing deeper into the once-unimaginable and still-trackless wilderness of old age with our grandchildren listening to our music while we borrow their clothes — Alices and Alans in Boomerland. And I’m finally beginning to feel like I belong in the class. I’ve seen The Breakfast Club, the misfits and outcasts are as much a part of it as the prom queens and football heroes, and, hey, maybe we need each other. 

It’s possible. And I might actually enjoy my class’s 60th reunion. Anything’s possible.