The Much Anticipated Dreaded Class Reunion

 

She was the first to greet me as I approached the banner hung over the room reserved for our group, smaller now, after so many years. Her lovely face, crinkled with many summers of smiling in the sun, was a bit different, but her voice and demeanor were unchanged. She was always meant to cheerfully organize these things. “I got on Facebook” she said, “And had my daughter check to make sure I did it right.” I told her that was smart and that Facebook events are perfect for us older folks. Then, I cringed.

I wandered about, struggling to recognize people. A guy approached and asked if I remembered him. I glanced at his name tag and thought I did. Wasn’t he the quiet one, who was always talking about sic-fi? He was bald now, but he sort of looked familiar. Yes, I did recognize him! Laughing, he told me that he came with his buddy, and was not a classmate of mine after all. Okay, now it feels like high school again.

Looking past him, I saw an old friend, a girl who had competed with me for leads in the plays we did every year. The separation of time melted away, and we smiled at each other, embraced, and quickly caught up with each others lives. More people filtered into the restaurant event room, and as I made the rounds, I noticed that the vast majority were currently divorced. A notable exception was a friend who had lived in my neighborhood; she said that she and her husband had “not coped well with empty-nest syndrome,” so they had adopted two children after raising four. The kids were currently under ten, so they had to leave early.

The smartest boy in class became a physician, and the girl voted most likely to succeed wasn’t able to attend because her daughter-in-law was winning Olympic medals last week. The skinny, shy boy who was really smart and sensitive, stood quietly, even though it looked painful. The girls who were popular were still popular, and got a little more buzzed and a bit louder as the night wore on. The tall, friendly guy who was a natural born salesman, had become…a salesman, and asked after my sister.

Somewhere inside, an irrational part of me pouted that I still towered over most of the boys. By nine o’clock, as conversations of the long-forgotten-and-now-remembered Past began to circulate the room, the peculiar magic of reminiscence began to work its spell and, suddenly, I was in the high school cafeteria again, looking for a place to sit.

I don’t have unhappy memories of high school; quite the opposite, in fact. My classmates were — and remain — good people. I was fortunate to have many friends and was busy with theater, speech and art. I was a good student and my teachers liked me. But for four years, I wasn’t involved in the social sphere of drinking parties and dating. For one thing, I started my senior year at 16, and was emotionally out-of-sync (to put it politely) with my classmates. So, really, it wasn’t my fault. [butterflies flapping in stomach].

By 9:30 PM, the disquietude in my heart directed me to college, er, the door, and I said goodbye. With jangling nerves and emotions I still can’t identify, I drove four hours to my happy little cottage in northern Michigan to recuperate. I added several classmates to my friends list on Facebook, and it remains to be seen if we will connect meaningfully there. A few may join Ricochet, since no one talks to me without hearing about the best place on the web (you’re welcome, Rob Long & Peter Robinson).

Am I the only one who occasionally goes to these things with high hopes that, at last, now that I’m a confident grown-up, I might be comfortable examining my awkward youth?

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  1. Judithann Campbell Member
    Judithann Campbell
    @

    You are so brave to go to those things at all! I absolutely hated high school-hated school period, really. Everybody in high school was nice to me, but I was so awkward and depressed and spaced out that I couldn’t even tell you the names of most of my classmates. I really admire you for going to your reunion; I have never been to one of mine.

    • #1
  2. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    What a well expressed overview of class reunions everywhere! Mine sounds so similar to yours. The popular kids still sitting together, the nerds still all at one table, etc. My favorite memory is of a girl who had been in my class in 6th grade, but who I lost track of in high school. She was fat, and unfortunately her last name rhymed with “starch,” so that  was what the boys called her. She always did have a pretty face and luminous smooth skin, but the boys noticed only her weight. But at the reunion, she rushed over to me to say hi, and I could not believe my eyes! She was as willowy as any model, and still had the pretty face and luminous skin. She was stunning, and she knew it. She flitted around the room and I could tell she was loving everyone’s reaction. And I loved it too.

    • #2
  3. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    I’ve never been to a high school reunion, and I don’t even know if my graduating class has even had any. Glad to know you handled yours well!

    • #3
  4. 6foot2inhighheels Member
    6foot2inhighheels
    @6foot2inhighheels

    Judithann Campbell:You are so brave to go to those things at all! I absolutely hated high school-hated school period, really. Everybody in high school was nice to me, but I was so awkward and depressed and spaced out that I couldn’t even tell you the names of most of my classmates. I really admire you for going to your reunion; I have never been to one of mine.

    I have only been to two; the first time was when I vowed to never return.  After getting invited to the Facebook group, I was drawn in, and ended up promising to go.  I’m glad I did, just wasn’t expecting the little panic attack.

    • #4
  5. 6foot2inhighheels Member
    6foot2inhighheels
    @6foot2inhighheels

    RightAngles:What a well expressed overview of class reunions everywhere! Mine sounds so similar to yours. The popular kids still sitting together, the nerds still all at one table, etc. My favorite memory is of a girl who had been in my class in 6th grade, but who I lost track of in high school. She was fat, and unfortunately her last name rhymed with “starch,” so that was what the boys called her. She always did have a pretty face and luminous smooth skin, but the boys noticed only her weight. But at the reunion, she rushed over to me to say hi, and I could not believe my eyes! She was as willowy as any model, and still had the pretty face and luminous skin. She was stunning, and she knew it. She flitted around the room and I could tell she was loving everyone’s reaction. And I loved it too.

    Ha!  Good for her!

    • #5
  6. 6foot2inhighheels Member
    6foot2inhighheels
    @6foot2inhighheels

    Mike LaRoche:I’ve never been to a high school reunion, and I don’t even know if my graduating class has even had any. Glad to know you handled yours well!

    If you call sort of running away and driving for hours in the dark while eating potato chips, handling it well, then I sure did!

    • #6
  7. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    I’m glad it was meaningful.  Good story.

    • #7
  8. 6foot2inhighheels Member
    6foot2inhighheels
    @6foot2inhighheels

    DocJay:I’m glad it was meaningful. Good story.

    Thanks Doc Jay.  I think the boy who grew up to be a physician will be joining us here at Ricochet.  He specializes in men’s health issues, and I expect some lively conversation.

    • #8
  9. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    The reunion bulletin had an “In Memoriam” section of people who had died, but one of the guys listed was not only alive but present. He ran around haunting everyone all night.

    • #9
  10. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    RightAngles: He ran around haunting everyone all night.

    That sounds fun. Kind of like Mark Twain.

    • #10
  11. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    I went to my tenth. Of course, that was in a different millennium and before I married. One of the funny things I noticed was that I seemed to talk more with and have better resonance with the Black guys there.

    • #11
  12. Lance Inactive
    Lance
    @Lance

    I went to my tenth in the years proceeding FB and found it to be a remarkably cathartic experience.   Surprisingly, I discovered the coin of the realm, the differentiator was having a story or an adventure to share, most specifically one involving getting out of and away from the home town and doing something, anything, and sharing it.  Just being away and making a living seemed relatively exotic to those who had stayed in town during that decade.  Maybe not in their words, but in their eyes.  I had left, and though I was near broke and hardly the success my 17 year old self had envisioned, turns out managing the operations of a college student charity that sent low-income Los Angeles children to summer camp seemed pretty cool and relatively interesting.  Nobody seemed to care that it paid almost nothing.   All that time I spent making friends and being nice paid off.  Turns out I was the recognizable face people felt drawn to and having that story made breaking ice all the easier.

    Now, 15 years later we prepare for another reunion in the age of FB, and though I greatly enjoy the renewed friendships that have resulted, I largely prefer to keep the connections largely digital.  There is no way I can top my earlier experience.  Also, with so much sharing taking place in this FB era, I foresee retaing a little mystery about oneself to being the new coin of the realm.

    • #12
  13. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    I thought facebook had pretty much killed the reunion.

    High school was not a great time for me.  I went to my tenth anniversary reunion, and my main memory was being surprised by how many of the goofy guys had really good looking wives (I was still single with no prospects then).

    I went to the 20th and was surprised by how much fun I had and how many people who wouldn’t give me the time of day in school were actually fairly interested in talking.

    In both cases, one thing I noticed was that the people I really wanted to see didn’t show up, and the people I really didn’t want to see did.

    The 30th was organized on facebook (6 years ago), and it became clear early on that it was pretty much going to be a drunk-fest, so I skipped it.  I think I still have some pending friend requests from then.

    • #13
  14. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    As much as I hated high school, I’ve gone to a reunion every five years except the 10-year reunion, which was the first.  It’s interesting to find out what everyone has done with their lives.

    • #14
  15. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    I went to my high school 20th, but skipped the 25th. This past June, though, I was at a function at which my high school basketball team was inducted in our school’s Athletic Hall of Fame — we were the first team to win a state championship, in girls’ basketball, in double overtime, 1987… Good times. Everyone but one player was there for the dinner, including our old coach. I will say, none of us had gotten fat. That was nice to see. I stayed in the parking lot talking to my old girlfriends for an hour after the restaurant kicked us out…

    • #15
  16. Pony Convertible Inactive
    Pony Convertible
    @PonyConvertible

    I have been out of high school for nearly 4 decades.  I have never been to a class reunion even though I still live in the same town.  Simply put, high school was a very troubled time for me.  I have no desire to revive old memories.  Gratefully high school is long behind me, I that is where it should stay.

    • #16
  17. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    My class has had a reunion every five years and I haven’t missed one.

    The only reason I went to my first at five years is because, like @lance I had a decent story to tell. I had hated high school and never fit into any groups but I did make a couple of life long friends.

    I met (or re-met) my husband at that first reunion so we’ve returned every five years. I am convinced that if we don’t show up everyone will assume we’re divorced. Or that I’m fat. Or both.

    • #17
  18. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    If I read a post of yours correctly, did your son just get married?  You seem young to have a grown son already, but that would be a great topic!  It is always a curiosity factor that draws people rather than wanting to actually go for fun to these things I think – like you said, most of us felt awkward or inadequate in some way, or compared to the prettiest, or most popular or athletic, felt less than…..after decades I sometimes have these weird dreams of not being able to find my locker, or roaming the halls in my underwear? Or the worst one, not passing any tests and never graduating!

    • #18
  19. The Cynthonian Member
    The Cynthonian
    @TheCynthonian

    This is quite timely, as I’m going to my high school class reunion this coming weekend.  Must be reunion season.   I’m feeling that same mixture of anticipation and dread.  I’m pretty sure there are a couple of people I will reconnect with very easily.  The rest…….remains to be seen.

    • #19
  20. Fred Houstan Member
    Fred Houstan
    @FredHoustan

    Judithann Campbell: You are so brave to go to those things at all! I absolutely hated high school-hated school period, really.

    I have a bipolar relationship with my high school days. I’ve friended the better part of my former classmates on FB — and as others have written, we largely haven’t changed. Like you, I had great classmates as well, but going off to college — art school — was where I was no longer an outlier, and it was fantastic. I was every bit the uncomfortable high school student though maturity and being too-dang-tired-to-care should be sufficient analgesic for a visit that I hope to make sooner than later.

    RightAngles: She flitted around the room and I could tell she was loving everyone’s reaction. And I loved it too.

    What’s not to love in this story?

    • #20
  21. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    My father passed when I was 16. Dealing with the cancer and then the aftermath of his passing, well, you can pretty much guess how my high school years went.

    I have received many invites over the last twenty years, and it was tempting to attend, if for no other reason than to show off my lovely wife and brag about my children. (Ricochetti can attest that I never, ever engage in the latter…) Alas, the reunions have always been scheduled on an October Saturday, smack dab in the middle of my college football commitments.

    I probably haven’t missed much.

    • #21
  22. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    6foot2inhighheels: Somewhere inside, an irrational part of me pouted that I still towered over most of the boys.

    That is the boys’ problem. Speaking as a vertically challenged individual myself, I always found slow dancing with tall women wearing plunging necklines a reward unto itself.

    • #22
  23. Fred Houstan Member
    Fred Houstan
    @FredHoustan

    6foot2inhighheels: Somewhere inside, an irrational part of me pouted that I still towered over most of the boys.

    Among my profligate faults and talents, I’ve always been comfortable in my own skin. That’s not a boast, as I’ve been shy as it related (long past tense, thank God) to dating — terribly so. I’ve simply never fancied being an inch taller or shorter, or more — whatever. Now, as the father of 3, I’ve seen each child “irrationally” fret about a unique physical aspect they possess. I’ve tried to spend time with each to encourage them to treasure how God created them — sigh — for naught. And I do dearly detest those checkout item rags, like Cosmopolitan, for promoting self-identity-hatred.

    I so wish I had some preternatural power to cure each of my children of this.

    • #23
  24. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    EJHill:My father passed when I was 16. Dealing with the cancer and then the aftermath of his passing, well, you can pretty much guess how my high school years went.

    I have received many invites over the last twenty years, and it was tempting to attend, if for no other reason than to show off my lovely wife and brag about my children. (Ricochetti can attest that I never, ever engage in the latter…) Alas, the reunions have always been scheduled on an October Saturday, smack dab in the middle of my college football commitments.

    I probably haven’t missed much.

    That is a lot to deal with so young –

    • #24
  25. Quietpi Member
    Quietpi
    @Quietpi

    Our (my wife was my high school sweetheart) reunions have been very different than many of you. We live again in my home town, and several of our classmates are still good friends.  And, disclaimer, we’ve only attended three, including our 50th last summer.  While I hear from many how at reunions all the same cliques remain, all the same biases, etc. our class has mellowed in many good ways.  The cliques are gone.  Some turned out the way we might have expected, some didn’t.  But it truly doesn’t seem to matter.

    Our high school puts on a sort of combined, “Over 50 year” reunion, assuming that classes’ 50th would be their last.  Our class, at our 50th, said, no, we enjoy this too much.  We’re going to do at least one more – a 55th – before we allow ourselves to be dropped into the pot with all those old people.  Of course, we’ll see if it happens.

    • #25
  26. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    Sorry to hear about the rough edges, 6’2″!   Went to mine – 40 years – praise God, with my next-youngest sister, last month…Had a blast! (One of my “lift team” = football team – since the school had no elevator, is a retired Marine, now vascular-unit surgical nurse, so there was plenty to talk about…).   Yes, people hung together as they always had. And, yes, there were still a couple pains in the six. But, it all seemed suffused with gratitude, memories – and joy. FB connections with several; awaiting the “contact book” for others. Thanks be, some ties don’t break…Go, Bulldogs!

    • #26
  27. Dave L Member
    Dave L
    @DaveL

    My 50th just past. I thought about going, but none of my old friends were attending and most of those attending had never left the geographic area. I feared I wouldn’t have anything in common, or to reminisce about with those attending so I did not go.

    • #27
  28. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    How big were y’all’s graduating classes? Does that affect the reunion atmosphere?

    • #28
  29. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    Aaron Miller:How big were y’all’s graduating classes? Does that affect the reunion atmosphere?

    366 for us, Aaron…And, yes, I’m sure it does…

    • #29
  30. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Aaron Miller: union in the age of FB, and though I greatly enjoy the renewed friendships that have resulted, I largely prefer to keep the connections largely digital. There is no way I can top my e

    Around four hundred, but most of those who came were people I know, for whatever reason.

    • #30

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