My high school class had their 50 year reunion last Friday and Saturday night, but it began for me last Wednesday when Jim, my “oldest”/longest friend flew in from Vermont. I haven’t seen him for 12 years, and we had a lot of catching up to do. Since then I’ve been lost in memories, not just from junior high and high school but from college and immediately afterward. After I dropped him off at the airport this morning, I’ve finally had time to begin to reflect on these seven days.
We dragged out the old yearbook Wednesday afternoon and spent most of the night trying to decide who we did or didn’t remember from our graduating class and comparing memories from that time. I made a number of “discoveries,” some of which I’m still mulling over in my head.
As we looked through the yearbook, I was amazed at how few people I recognized. Jim knew considerably more people in our class than I did. Part of that is due to the fact that Jim lived in West Seattle his whole life, while I attended grade schools throughout various parts of Washington and California and didn’t settle down until I started junior high at James Madison. Though I’ve always preferred a small group of close friends to a large group of acquaintances, I was a little dismayed by just how few people I recognized.
I was once accused in high school of being an “intellectual snob,” an accusation that caused me considerable consternation at the time. Most of my high school “friends” were intellectuals, but that was because I was in “intellectual” classes like Latin, honors math, chemistry and physics, and, even, a “bone-head,” honors English, a class especially thrown together for those of us who’d scored high on a national test but who’d scored poorly on the writing part of the same test.
I never took took much pride in my academic achievements since I always felt I’d inherited those traits. I was much more concerned about my lack of athletic achievements because I weighed about 155 pounds as a senior, though I was 6’ tall. My father refused to sign my permission slip to play high school football, and I was devastated. Though my closest high school friends came from my honors math class, I don’t think either of them ever thought of themselves as “intellectuals.”
As we looked over the yearbook, I slowly came to the realization that I had more friends in the class behind us than in my own class. I dated a junior my senior year, and we were more apt to spend time with her friends than mine. My other “best friend” who lived across the street was also a class behind me, and since neither Jim nor I had access to a car until after we started college, I spent much more time in the summer with Roland than I did with Jim.
Coincidentally, Roland, was also an “intellectual” who later became a college professor, but we became close friends because we both loved to walk, walking nearly ten miles every day all summer long. Our walks were usually accompanied by intellectual and religious discussions, but it was the walk itself that drew us together. What kept us together all through college was the simple fact that he carpooled with me.
At the actual reunion, it became clear that neither Jim nor I had many friends who were drawn to reunions. I was never without someone to talk to and really enjoyed seeing the people I did see, but it was certainly a limited group.
I must admit that I was a little bothered by this discovery, but I suspect that this Emily Dickinson poem I was drawn to many years ago:
The Soul selects her own Society—
Then—shuts the Door—
To her divine Majority—
Present no more—
Unmoved—she notes the Chariots—pausing—
At her low Gate—
Unmoved—an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat—
I’ve known her—from an ample nation—
Then—close the Valves of her attention—
provides a more accurate explanation of why I’ve had so few friends rather than any intellectual snobbery. I’ve never doubted for a moment that the “I” in the INTP in my Briggs-Meyer score was an accurate measure of my personality, and this week certainly confirmed that feeling.