this past week was possibly my fifth time back, and my first reunion. the school treats me like an alumnus, asking for money every year and inviting me to all the reunions. this is my 25th, although it has been 27 years since i left, and 26 since i would have graduated. it is a small school, only 200 students, so they bunch reunions together in groups of three.
in almost three decades, i have had almost no contact with my former schoolmates. one lives near my parents, so i have seen him a couple of times, and i briefly corresponded with another 20 years ago or so. my sophomore roommate lives near my sister, and i have seen him once.
it is so wet here. i'm enjoying squishing through the damp grass, watching robins hunt, and being surrounded by a virtual caophany of birdsong. so far i've only encountered one othe alum, a graduate of the class of 92, who is a still employed software engineer in silicon valley. he must be the best of the best to have escaped the layoffs, but putney does produce some extraordinary people.
the past, full of the unsubstantiated rumors of my frightened memories evolves into a present of intellectual stimulation and discourse of the kind that excites me into an escalating adrenaline frenzy, ultimately leaving me drained and exhausted, like an old tv as the light shrinks to a dot before winking out entirely.
i spent hours deep in conversation with people i hardly knew and barely remembered, the passage of time all the more acute as i saw the balding heads, sagging skin, and bulging bellies of the present day versions of the children we watched in the old, spliced video someone brought.
oh, the people i missed out on knowing when i was here and in the years since. brilliant, colorful, good conscientious souls whoseem to have forgotten or possibly forgiven the less savory aspects of my adolescent character.
these people who have scattered, some farther than others, all sharing a vision and a perspective uniquely born of this place, not by any measure the same in us all after decades of absence, but still rooted firmly in the soil where the elm grew.
i have possibly more regrets and guilt and envy than most about the specifics of my time here, but i am still enriched by the experience, hazy though my memories are, i can always feel the spirit of putney as soon as i set foot here.
i was expelled in 1975 at the end of my junior year. a year later, when another student was expelled, the student body as a whole rebelled, confessing en masse to breaking the same sorts of rules (drugs and alcohol), forcing the faculty to let him back in.
why didn't this happen when i was expelled? because i didn't have friends. i had party buddies, but no real friends. my social skills were zero. even 25 years later, despite some cameraderie and good conversation, i still feel like an outsider.
i am not tied to these people by the umbilical of shared adolescence. i like them, and envy that bond, but i will never have it. i essentially spent my adolescence alone in a crowd.
the first bonds of the kind these people have i made two years later with kids 3-6 years younger than me, finally forging friendships that have lasted over time.
my mom told me that my fifth grade teacher saw this coming, predicting that it would be college before my social skills caught up with my intellect. perceptive woman, that Miss Bliwise.