Clippings: 25 years already? Life’s been good

“Good visit, but boy, are we old!” my college friend “Cowboy” emailed me recently after we had returned to our respective homes after our college class reunion. “Let’s not make it 20 years between connecting again.”
I didn’t think we were getting old, but did note that it was the 25th anniversary of our graduation from Dartmouth College and wondered where my friend had lost the other five years. Perhaps those senior moments are coming a little more frequently nowadays.
Some people are really big on reunions and, if you believe the class notes that arrive in my mail unbidden a couple times per annum, they reconvene with college friends and acquaintances at least every five years, and then they hold “mini-reunions” in addition to that. I cherish my memories of the four years I spent at my alma mater and hold them close to my heart; I don’t need to have reality impinging upon them with regular reminders that I was not the Big Man on Campus.
But 25 years seemed like a good enough interval and I did want to catch up with Cowboy. And I’m a journalist, for goodness’ sake; I’m naturally curious about what all those long ago acquaintances are up to. So I planned on returning to the Hanover Plain to check it all out. The official reunion was a four-day affair and cost $475, a bargain I suppose. I planned on a quick 24-hour swing through town and thankfully was abetted by my best Dartmouth friend, Mike, who happens to live right here in Middlebury.
We arrived on Friday evening, after most of the other members of the great class of 1987 had been standing around in beer tents for two days chitchatting about their kids and their jobs and how they had cleaned themselves up blah blah blah. We missed the steak and lobster dinner but, thankfully, we didn’t miss the after-dinner chitchat. We headed straight for the tent.
Who’s that person? We went to school with him? Who are these people? There were around a thousand people in our class and most of them have not aged as gracefully as me and Mike — I’ve only gained 20 pounds (or so) and Mike’s hair is still dark (what’s left of it). But eventually we spotted a clutch of faces we recognized.
Oh look, there’s Trey Gum, and there’s Mark Baranski, and there’s Mike Kollis. I bet he’s glad that the bald head came into style. In fact, quite a few of my old classmates have adopted that look, opting out of the popular hairstyle of our fathers’ generation — the comb-over.
We all started talking about our kids, we loved talking about our kids. Cowboy thought it was funny that people who hadn’t seen each other for a quarter century would almost immediately spill out countless stories about little beings who weren’t even alive when we went to school together. He’d already been at the reunion for two days and was understandably getting tired of stories about other people’s kids; he doesn’t have any children himself. A class survey showed that about 18 percent of our classmates don’t have any children. About 9 percent have one child, two-thirds of us have two or three children, and maybe 5 percent have four or more. Trey has six!
And not only does Trey have a remarkable number of children, but the youngest is only four years old. That was the kid demographic that surprised me the most — that so many of my classmates had children after age 40. We were mostly born in 1964 and 1965 — the last official year of the Baby Boom and the first year of whatever came after. Most of our parents had children in their 20s and early 30s. I read about one guy in our class reunion book who said his next goal in life is to start a family; he’s at least 46 years old.
But there was lots of other chitchat, too. What do you do for work? Lawyer. Investment banker. Lawyer. Oh, did you hear about so-and-so, he’s a lawyer or a banker, I can’t remember which. Plus there were a fair number working in education.
I shouldn’t be too harsh on Cowboy for his memory; mine proved to be pretty porous on numerous occasions. At one point I was talking with a guy, I’d been to his engagement shower ages and ages ago, and for the life of me I could not remember his wife’s name. Until I was driving home. Sorry, Gwen. Another time outside the beer tent I was introduced to a guy who said he had shared an apartment with me in my sophomore year. Really? Ya, behind that restaurant off South Street, with Sarah Lyons. Really?? Eventually it came back to me, I think.
Before we left campus I told Mike to go ahead to the car, I wanted to check something out. Freshman year there was a guy named Abdhish who was head over heels in love with a classmate whose name I forget. But I do remember distinctly that one night, after having been to the 1984 version of the beer tent, Abdhish told me that he was so in love that he had carved his initials and her initials into a tree outside Baker Library, and that he had connected them with the scientific symbol for a triple valence; “That’s the strongest bond there is,” I remember him telling me. Fast-forward to 2012 and I see that he has three charming kids and a beautiful wife — who was not a Dartmouth classmate. I looked for the tree to see if the initials carved into it decades ago had fared any better than me or my classmates.
I looked and looked at the trees on the west side of the library but I saw no initials. I questioned my memory and thought, boy, are we getting old.

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