In which the author discovers some of the reasons people go to high school reunions

On October 9th, I ventured southward to attend my 41st high school reunion. Why 41st? Apparently a few people from my graduating class got together last year, and bemoaned the fact that there was no 40th reunion. They decided to organize one themselves the following year. They did a bang-up job, too; I think they could write a book about how to hold the perfect high school reunion. The main organizing tool was the Web - a website, Classmates. com, and Facebook. Facebook was the most powerful tool for finding and communicating with everyone, though there is still a long list of missing classmates.

The last reunion our class held was our 20th, and I attended it with my husband. I had a 15 month old child at the time, and was just about to quit my job to go back to school full-time to study accounting. Neither R. nor I had a particularly good time. I had few close friends in high school, and none of them were in the room. The party was in a restaurant, and it was hard to mill about and talk to people, and figure out who might be mutually interesting dinner companions. We ended up at the smokers’ table, which made R. happy, as he was still a smoker at the time. This group was in a distinct minority, and feeling a bit rebellious with the format of the reunion, and were kind enough to accept us at their table.

This time, the game plan was completely different. First of all, I went stag. No worries about whether my husband was having a good time, and no safe bubble to escape to. The venue was a large enclosed pavilion in a park in the town where we all grew up, and the dress code was jeans, sweaters and sweatshirts. That alone put everyone at ease.

There were greetings and conversation for a couple of hours, and there was a class picture:



Class of ’69. An epic year, with the inauguration of Richard Nixon as President, the first moon landing, war in Vietnam and protests at home, and Woodstock. There were 361 people in my high school class. About 30% of us made it to the reunion.

After the picture taking, we all went inside, and took care of the business of the gathering. We remembered our classmates who have died - almost 10% of the class. As Dan P. said in the remembrance, you can’t help but wonder what happened to them. We had silent auctions and raffles. The organizers have arranged for all of the money left over after paying the bills to go to fund a scholarship for an academically deserving, financially needy graduate from our alma mater's class of 2011. If I heard correctly, I think we will be able to contribute about $1,500 to someone’s education. That made all of us feel good.

Then it was food time - an excellent buffet. Pulled pork, pulled turkey, salt potatoes, ziti, baked beans, green and fruit salads, cheesy broccoli, and a huge cake. It was delicious.

We did NOT then move on to the obligatory-ridiculously-too-loud deejay. Instead, we were all able to keep talking with each other. The climax of the evening: allegedly there were fireworks, although such doings would have been against the park rules. The possible fireworks were followed by a visit from the local police force, just making sure that we all had designated drivers.

I was amazed at how many people remembered and recognized me. Over and over, people told me that I have not changed much from high school.



I had many enjoyable conversations with my classmates. Topics included what we do for a living (some lucky folks have already been able to retire), sailing and boat building, art history, raising kids, enjoying grandkids, building a business, the future... It was wonderfully inclusive, with everyone making an effort to reach out to whomever they encountered. No snubbing, no cliques. I wasn’t one of the popular people in high school, with lots of friends. I’m remembered kindly, though. I may have come away with a couple of friendships that will grow between now and the next reunion. I’m going to do my part to maintain connection. And I’m resolved to keep working on active listening. The best connections happened when I listened at least as much as I talked.

When I finally got into the car to drive back to my mother’s house, I realized that something inside me felt healed, like a small wound had knit itself up. I felt joyous and reconciled with my past.

Yes, I will be there when we hold our 50th reunion. It will be a great time.

Comments

  1. What’s “pulled” meat? It sounds like a great party. I haven’t been to a single high school reunion. I don’t even know if any were even celebrated. Weird.

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  2. Thanks for writing that, Anita. I wish I had been there, but then maybe I can make it to the next one. Now that I am reconnecting with folks on Facebook, I might be able to plan and come out. Also can maybe get Kathy Same and Sue Power to come as well. And thanks for joining my blog. I really appreciate it!

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