It feels like I haven’t written a post in ages. I’ve been using every spare moment to plan my high school 20-Year Reunion. Now that the reunion is behind me, and I have a few minutes to return to this space, my mind keeps freezing when I think about writing. I’m out of shape. (It happens so quickly. Like physical exercise, the ability to write dissolves after 3 days of disuse. Did you know it takes 3 weeks to get into shape, but only a matter of days to fall out of shape? Oh, humanity.) At any rate, if I don’t start typing and simply click “publish” at the end of it, I may never write again. So.
We held the reunion last week in the town where I grew up, right down the street from my Alma Mater. My husband and I hadn’t used Exit 31 off the Turnpike in several years. Driving back into Lansdale was kind of like driving into Disney World – my face was glued to the window as we drove by a lifetime of familiar images that had lived in my memory but were now 3-dimensional and real again. Not to mention, I ooo-ed and ah-ed over the new and impressive townhouses and businesses that had gone up since we last visited the area. Lansdale looked great: it was the same, yet mature, yet beautifully with-the-times. I could tell that someone has been taking good care of it.
For weeks before the reunion, I had been praying that the atmosphere of the event would be warm and welcoming; I wanted all 120 people who were attending the party to feel that they belonged, that they were special human beings made by God. I knew I couldn’t sit them all down and read them a touching picture-book about their inherent worth, nor could I personally connect with each person or serve them tea, so I was relying on God to create this atmosphere and experience.
Because I was planning the event from 3 hours away, I didn’t know what the ballroom would look like until I arrived a few hours before the reunion began. Ryan and I expectantly walked into the lobby, into the ballroom, and realized that it was…only “fine”. Certainly not what I had been imagining: the metal-framed chairs looked square and stiff, the air smelled like stale cigarettes. There were no chandeliers, no draping fabrics, no twinkle lights. The room simply contained a cash bar, a small dance floor, and 12 round tables with chairs. This wasn’t the “warm and welcoming” atmosphere I had imagined.
Though we had planned to decorate later in the afternoon, I felt the impulse to do something immediately – to fluff up, to rearrange, or add something pretty to this otherwise bland atmosphere. I only had a few bags of decorations, but I got to work right away, placing wooden discs, ball jars, and periwinkle Hydrangea on each table. I added a few objects from various high school subjects – stubby oil pastels on the “Art” table, cracked crystal geodes on the “Geology” table. It wasn’t a miraculous transformation, but it did something to the space, moving it from a blank canvas to a space with a fingerprint. When I was finished, I felt a similar satisfaction to when I brush my daughter’s hair, or wipe my toddler’s runny nose, or zipper up a child’s jacket. After all, it’s often a few simple touches that transform us from “only fine” to “dearly loved”.
My favorite part was later that evening when my classmates started appearing in the hotel lobby. I sat at the Registration Table and greeted those familiar faces that glowed with a magnetizing combination of youthfulness and maturity. (I’m not exaggerating or waxing poetical… each person really seemed to glow.) Though my brain couldn’t access everyone’s name right away, their faces were of course! It’s you! My greatest joy was that every single person was more beautiful than ever, as if each one had been adorned with more confidence, strength, and big-heartedness over the years.
This was the surprise I hadn’t anticipated. And I’ll never forget.
For an hour, I said it over and over again as I hugged familiar faces, shoulders, and necks from across the Registration Table, “This feels like Heaven! It’s so good to see you here.”
The reunion was 5 hours of mingling, music, food, some dancing (for the bravest amongst us), and remembering. Almost everyone stayed until the very end.
At the end of the evening, I stood back and took a deep breath, enjoying the realization that God Himself had granted my request. It had been a warm and welcoming atmosphere. It had been joyful and good. I don’t know if each person felt special but I, for one, saw them that way. My classmates are special, dearly loved people. Someone has been taking good care of them, and I feel delighted.