Monday, August 21, 2017

High School Reunions. Why Bother?




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.

They did.

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.



15 comments:

  1. this is really a sweet story! glad you went and had fun!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm just like you - why go to a reunion for, isn't it all in the past? But now in my early forties, I start to view the finishing line at lot more clearly, once I passed the half-way mark. You start to think about those blurry years more, and all those people crazy enough (or forced to) share them with you. I'm glad you got involved, and helped everyone touch base again. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In my thirties Chris, when I would hear about a reunion, I'd think why go? I have nothing in common with those people anymore. This past weekend I realized we're all very similar. Folks hoping they've made a difference in someone's life, parents wishing they'd done a better job, grandparents thrilled with the new generations tucking on their hands, couples looking forward to being retired together and everyone wishing time would just SLOW DOWN!

      Delete
  3. I would love to attend my old school reunions, but they're too far away. I just look at the photos afterwards.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We had a graduating class of 467. Of that about 60 made it to the reunion with another 20 or so spouses or partners. Three (I believe) did travel a long distance which was amazing. But it's difficult and expensive to do so. For those who could not make it we've posted lots of pics on Facebook pages. This week...I like Facebook.

      Delete
  4. I loved this post. I don't do reunions either. I did go once to the 10 year - and that did it for me. I do keep up with everyone on Facebook.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I too have kept in touch with a small handful of HS friends via FB, but when I saw them in person, got to see those same facial expressions and mannerisms in person, it reminded me-again-how social media, while saying it keeps folks close, mostly just makes us more distant. Instead of calling someone I care about, I text them. It's quick and easy but it still feels cold at times. Now watch, all my flippin' family is going to start calling me!

      Delete
  5. We have had a reunion every five years. I went to all but two. Now, the 55th is coming up. We have never met at a restaurant, always meet at a venue. It costs, but it is nice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We had plans to meet at an upscale country club but didn't get enough attendees to cover the cost. So just a few weeks before we had to change to a small restaurant, but it worked out well. Great food, great music, room to move in and outdoors. Perfect

      Delete
  6. This is lovely. I have kept a few strong friends from school but my college days (16 -18) are where I still have a lot of friends from. I gained nothign from those two years of education other than a strong life long group of friends, and that was worth it. We still met up once a year or so now and have a few drinks, it's really nice and like no time has passed - except lots of kids from a few of us!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh that's good Kev. I no longer keep in close touch with anyone from my nursing school days but I am doing better about keeping close to nurses I worked with. It is an effort when you have jobs and families and gardens and critters and and and...but it's worth the effort. Time for me to reach out to a few more "old" nursing buddies. (hello Jax, Stacey, Kristy and Debbie!)

      Delete
  7. I'm with you on the "don't do reunions" statement Donna. I did attend my 25th reunion when I was still living in NJ. But, when news came of the 50th being held last Nov, I had at first planned on going, but then when a good friend passed away, I decided to give the monies that would have been spent on travel and attending to her husband, also our good friend. We got far more pleasure out of that then I would have at the reunion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like the best decision ever. Maybe you'll make it to the next one.

      Delete
  8. I've never been to a reunion, but my high school is in North Dakota and I am in Arkansas, so not exactly a short trip..not that I have ever been invited. I doubt they could if they tried. But I am glad you went..I can imagine it was a good time, and good memories. Time is racing by so quickly.

    ReplyDelete