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Reunion fears turn to joy

Amelie Welden

It’s 7 on a Friday evening, and I’m walking toward a giant papier-m%che ape, preparing myself to face people I haven’t seen in a decade.

It feels like the first day of high school all over again. I double-check my outfit and hair before venturing out of the car. I anxiously scan the crowd for familiar faces. I make awkward small talk with friends while continuing to survey the masses: “Is Tony here yet?” “Have you seen Joy?”

If you haven’t already guessed, I’m talking about my stress-inducing and much-anticipated high-school reunion. In late July, I joined nearly two hundred of my former classmates to celebrate 10 years since our graduation from Carson High.

As the night progressed and the drinks started flowing at the Old Globe, I found out that I wasn’t the only one who had suffered from sweaty palms and slight nausea earlier in the night. Many others also reported feeling a schoolgirl-ish trepidation as they made their way toward the registration table, conveniently marked by the huge gorilla that had adorned our senior-year homecoming float. (Leave it to Mr. and Mrs. Daniels to save a 12-foot reincarnation of King Kong for an entire decade.)

But can you blame us for being a little nervous? We’ve all heard the reunion horror stories: high-school big shots still acting like the same juvenile jerks they were 10 years ago; newly-minted yuppies spreading around their business cards and bragging about their bank accounts; people engaging in ill-advised hook-ups with old flames.

I’m happy to report that — so far as I saw — our reunion was totally free of these dreaded factors.

Much of the weekend went as we all could have predicted back in high school. Tracy Blume rolled into town in a minivan, flanked by three cute blond kids and an equally adorable husband. Alicia Daniels was everywhere — setting up displays, decorating entrance halls, working with caterers — as always, creating a successful event with some help from classmates and her ever-active parents.

People reminisced and bought each other beers and danced to music that was just cheesy enough to be perfect.

If there were surprises, they were of a wholesome, harmless nature. For example, Courtney Bettingen won $20,000 on Wheel of Fortune. Brynne Tamori’s baby has defied all logic and genetic precedent by being blond. Unbeknownst to me, Josh Patrick recently worked at my favorite take-out restaurant in Portland, located a mere five blocks from my apartment.

And on a truly shallow level, my class seems to have bucked the trend of the classmate who’s been rendered unrecognizable by a 300-pound weight gain or a misguided fashion stunt. Everyone at our reunion looked healthy and happy and, quite frankly, fabulous. I would even venture to claim — based on both memory and the black-and-white yearbook photos pasted to our nametags — that most of my classmates actually look better now than they did 10 years ago.

(As for me, I can’t even remember how many times I heard, “Wow. You look exactly the same!” I’m still trying to figure out whether or not that’s a compliment.)

Maybe the most pleasant surprise of the weekend was the broad mix of attendees, from accountant, to indie record-label owner, to dentists and teachers and artists. I ended up spending much of my time with people I hardly knew in high school, discovering that I wish I’d spent more time with them when I had the chance to years ago.

At the end of the weekend, I found myself exchanging hugs and e-mail addresses, already missing my former classmates. Forgive my trite sentiment, but I’ll always feel a certain connection to these folks with whom I shared a few pivotal years in Carson City. We’ve definitely grown and changed, but in many ways we’re still the same kids who used to wander through the makeshift village of portable classrooms and congregate in the McDonald’s parking lot.

All in all, I must say that I’m impressed with who we are and where our lives have taken us so far.

But I’m even more impressed that we continue to be capable of amazing, age-defying feats: over the weekend, we proved unequivocally that if we really put our minds and hearts into it, we can still party till 5 a.m.

Let’s do it again in 10 years.

Amelie Welden was co-valedictorian of the Carson High School Class of 1993. She is now a freelance writer in Portland, Ore.