Note or disclaimer or preface or something: I wrote this article, several months ago, long before the class reunion occurred. I was going to post it, in advance of the reunion, but I hesitated, intending to go back and edit and re-work it. Call me chicken. Now that I’ve actually attended my class reunion, reacquainted myself with people I’d lost contact with, and heard some of their feelings about our 30-year reunion, I’m posting this, even though it is after the fact. I looked forward to this reunion with hopeful anticipation, but also with a great deal of dread and anxiety. I now know I wasn’t entirely alone in that experience.
I do know this for certain, after having attended the reunion: We are no longer in high school anymore. I also know my classmates and I have grown and matured into respectful, decent, thoughtful people. Because of that, I know that my thoughts here will be treated respectfully and sensitively. It is in celebration of all our successes over the last 30 years that I offer this series of posts as a humble treatise of gratitude for the part each of you have played in making me the person I am today. Thank you.
My 30-year-high school reunion takes place this summer in a small dusty town in eastern Oregon. Though there is likely more pavement there now than when I packed my bags and hustled out of there without looking back, the place is still rather small and somewhat dusty in comparison to the lush green venues of Western Oregon and other areas in the Pacific Northwest. This is not to criticize the place where I spent most of my childhood. The high desert definitely has a solitary rugged beauty all its own. It is just that I am a mountains, rivers, oceans and trees kind of girl. I’ll take forest over sagebrush, and beaches over buttes, any day of the week. Though, admittedly, wild antelope effortlessly bounding across the Oregon outback is certainly a breathtaking sight. Even so, unable to fully appreciate it at the time that I lived there, I did make haste to get out of that part of Oregon as soon as I could do so and, as I mentioned before, I never looked back. I subsequently lost all contact with friends and classmates from my high school years.
Facebook Reconnected Me With My Past in a Positive Way
I’ve recently reconnected with many of my high school classmates via Facebook, among them one of the very first people I met when at the age of 8, my family relocated from Hood River, Oregon to this tiny town. He ended up being one of my best friends all through the years, and, no, contrary to popular belief, we never once dated! We walked to and from swim team together each summer, experienced the disco craze together (I can’t even believe we did some of those things now…the hair…the pants…the dances?). We played Kick-The-Can in my oversized backyard and went trick-or-treating until long past the age we should have. He was my marching partner at graduation, and that was the last I’ve seen of him until Facebook reconnected us. I’ve often thought of him over the years. It’s been wonderful to see how he is doing and what he is doing and what he’s done in the last three decades, though honestly, I never pictured him on a Harley! He hasn’t aged a day and he’s really buff. He makes me sick.
Among others, there is the classmate I took Driver’s Ed with. I was a horrible driver then and she grew up on a ranch and had some driving experience. She’ll be interested to note, my driving skills are still pretty bad though far better than they were then. She always amazed me with her daring and her devil-may-care attitude, when I was afraid of just about everything. She still amazes me with her daring. I know this because I’ve been privy to glimpses of her life 30 years later via Facebook. It’s been good to catch up and entertaining to see that though she’s changed a great deal in many ways (no, she doesn’t live on a ranch anymore!), she’s still the daring, devil-may-care person I once knew. She cracks me up on Facebook routinely and if she’s at the reunion, I hope to share a drink with her as well as with my buff friend who makes me sick.
I recently “friended” the guy I hitched a ride with to the University we’d both call home for the next four years after high school. He was a good friend through both high school and college. I last saw him in 1985 when I got married. I often thought of and wondered about my friend over the years. After reconnecting with him on Facebook, it is evident that He’s as brilliant as he was when I knew him way back in the day…he also makes me sick.
There’s the classmate who turned me on to one of the popular boy musical groups of the time. She first helped me develop my writing skill as we often wrote stories together in junior high, tag teaming off one another. She’d write a page or two and stop then I’d pick up where she left off. We wrote stuff that would make the authors of the Harlequin Romances blush. Had we kept those stories, I’m certain we’d be very wealthy authors today. She lives in Spain and is married to the love of her life. She along with Buff Motorcycle Riding friend, Fearless Driver Ed friend, and Brilliant Friend also makes me sick.
There are others, so many others. The football and basketball jocks, heroes, I mean who lined both sides of the hallways during lunch forcing all the coeds to pass by while they eyed us. I know I passed unnoticed, but it was excruciating for me nonetheless. There were the cheerleaders who somehow always looked put together, when I struggled to even understand what looked good and what worked on my so-not-made-for-the-80’s body. There were my Drama friends, The Debate Team (those Master Debaters), the Band peeps, and there were the upperclassmen then later the incoming freshmen, and all the others who picked their parts and played their roles in what was our own High School Musical. I’ve often thought of and wondered about my high school classmates throughout the years.
And, no, they don’t make me sick, not any of them. I’m teasing about that. But they do make me proud to know them.
Birthdays and Aging
Just the other day, one of us had a birthday and a Facebook thread developed around the theme of birthdays and aging.
“Wasn’t it just yesterday,” I queried, “that we were all tossing our graduation caps in the air with shouts of excitement about the lives we anticipated as we looked out hopefully, expectantly, on life from the beginning of our adulthood?”
We anticipated so much then, now, looking back, we are look forward to opening our mail and finding our AARP cards so we can cash in on the discounts!
As one of us commented, “I guess that’s better than having the AARP status assumed without having to show the card.” Yes, I guess it is. Aging makes me sick, and, no, I’m not kidding about that!
This summer many of us, hopefully most, will migrate back to our dusty little berg from points near and far to meet face to face in the old tradition called the High School Reunion. Having not attended any of my high school reunions (I was pregnant every time and easily the size of three of those high school linemen on our football team), I’m not quite sure what to expect. I’m hoping it will be just as much fun as catching up on Facebook has been. I’m hoping to enjoy meeting up with these people I used to travel the halls of our rural high school with so many years ago, slamming lockers, attending pep rallies, figuring out who was doing what for lunch and where. I anticipate hearing their stories, learning of their journeys, meeting their families. It still blows my mind that we have kids, some of us grandkids and graying hair even. It will be bittersweet experience for me too, since the last time I visited was for the funeral of my mom. There are others in my class who will not be attending. We honor their memory. This is also sad. It puts me in touch with the finite and transient nature of this experience we call life.
Reflections about reunions~After 30 Years Is It Safe To Enter?
Reunions do this to us, though don’t they? The evoke a range of emotions which, for some of us, we thought were safely tucked away behind that closet door marked, “My Distant Past-Do Not Enter”. Reunions ever so adeptly pry open those doors, memory by memory. They force us to reflect on our personal past and what we’ve accomplished or failed to do that we wanted to do. They, hopefully, cause us to celebrate the present and all the gifts we have. Inevitably, reunions challenge us to consider the future, whatever we can make of it from here on out. If we are fortunate, we still have hopes and dreams to look forward to, only this time around a few more family members or loved ones to share it with that weren’t here three decades earlier.
There’s one other thing the advent of this reunion helped me realize. As much as I used to think where I came from didn’t matter, I’ve learned that it really doesn’t in some ways, but it really does in other ways. I’ve learned that even the most insignificant incidents can impact an individual in lasting ways. While I personally played a supporting role in my high school drama, I learned a great deal from rubbing shoulders with those in my hometown. Those memories shaped me and contributed to who I am today. I am the better for it, and I am grateful for those I shared that small stage with during those formative years.
These days, I’m learning that just like I didn’t appreciate the solitary rugged beauty of the Oregon outback and the small farming community I lived in, neither did I fully appreciate the gifts, the talents, the strengths, and the personalities of the people I grew up with nearly as much as I could have and should have. It is time for that to change. I, for one, am looking forward to my 30-year-high school reunion.