I don't do reunions. Unless you count the sisterly kind where my siblings and I go away for a night or two every so often. But that's not really a reunion since we all live in Illinois and see each other often anyway. It's just a long gab fest. I'm talking about school reunions, which I have managed to avoid for decades.
No grade school reunions or high school gatherings, no nursing school get-togethers or college alumni groups. Nope. Not me.
But something happened. People I've known and loved for a long time starting dying. Not in big, Department of Public Health Epidemic number numbers kind of way, but rather here and there, a trickling of disappearances. But, I am closing in on sixty and with the average life span in this country now at around eighty for females and seventy-six for males, it became obvious; none of us are getting out of this life thing, alive.
So, when I saw a blurb on Facebook last year about someone garnering interest for a forty year high school reunion I made a partially interested face, but moved on. Important stuff beckoned, like butchering chickens and rendering lard. Crucial activities. But the next day I stalked that Facebook page again. My days at Joliet East High School were fuzzy, I had barely kept in touch with two of my girlfriends from that era, Ann and Leanne, but around that time another HS friend, Greg, contacted me. Seems his daughter was graduating from UIUC just like I was and he wanted to congratulate me and say hello.
There. Now I had three reasons to attend a reunion. I went back to that Facebook page and did the most insane thing; I signed up for the Reunion Committee! What a maroon, as my sisters like to say. We used to call each other moron, but that's not pc, so now we say maroon because no one gets offended if you're likened to a Crayola shade, right?
This last year, on a monthly basis, this reunion committee met and planned venues, menus and borrowed projectors from nephews. We fretted over invites and emails and my own personal fear, listing the wrong people on the final "In Memory of our Classmates" slide. Mostly like strangers in the beginning, we became friends again, even though some of us really didn't remember each other all that well from high school. Hell, at fifty eight it's hard to remember your own birthday let alone who was in your geometry class. Unless it was one of those Bernhard brothers, we all remembered them.
This last Saturday all our work came to a head and eighty or so folks (out of a class of 467) showed up for our fortieth high school reunion. The reunion committee was a bit nervous, arriving two hours early to ready the room, decorate, set up a PowerPoint presentation, harass waitresses (if you could make the room totally dark at 6:45 pm for our slide presentation, that'd be greeaaat) and generally worry about everyone finding the restaurant.
The evening, like all reunions, started out a bit awkward. Name tags were moderately helpful, but we had to face it, 98% percent of us did not look like we did at age 17-18. Most of us looked way better. And after a few drinks we all thought we looked pretty good. Then the band Strung Out played Come and get Your Love by Redbone, and those of us foolish enough, danced with all the same far out moves we had in 1977. What a scene, so glad none of my adult children were there. Died from embarrassment they would have. Fer sure.
Keith and I, always on farmer time, bowed out around midnight, but I must admit it was difficult to leave. Some of those people in that room meant a great deal to me in those HS years. I struggled with several home related issues back in the day. I ran away a couple times, got in trouble with the police (more than a couple of times) experienced the death of a sister, and generally was a hot mess as they say today. But I had my people then, and they were far more wonderful and supportive of me than I am sure I ever told them. It was good then, Saturday night, to be able to tell these folks what they meant to me then, what they mean to me still.
There was talk of a forty-five year reunion and of course a fifty year one. There was talk of maybe taking a road trip together, of getting together at one or another's homes, of keeping in better touch, of not letting so much time go past without connecting again. I hope we keep those promises, I believe we need to keep them, because it's just like Stevie Nicks says,
Time makes you bolder
Children get older
I'm getting older too
And before we know it, that Landslide will take us all down.
The high school me on left with my two best friends Leanne and Ann, just behind me.
They always had my back.