The Perils and Pleasures of High School Reunions


Our high school reunion last month began with a school tour. We pulled into the same parking lot I used mmffffeennttey (excuse me, my hand slipped) years ago when, as a senior, I finally got to drive my mother’s ffflllimmerrrtty-fraammph (Oops! There it goes again!) Chevy to school. I was unprepared for the rush of memories: of friends who rode with me, a boy who occasionally thumbed a ride home, the Home-Ec room where I learned to make the dresses, blouses and skirts I wore to school from then on…. Okay, that dates me! Girls didn’t wear pants to school in those days.
We walked past a new building that occupies part of the once-expansive front lawn and there was the elegant old red-brick facade with its gracefully arched doors and mullioned windows, some of which were stained glass. I marveled that as a teen-ager I had never appreciated its beauty.
Then we noticed the group standing around the flagpole. Who were all those old people? Were they really our classmates? At first our greetings were awkward because everyone was pretending we weren’t trying to read each others’ name tags, but eventually we gave up and just introduced ourselves. Once we got over the initial shock, familiar features began to emerge from the masses of wrinkles and gray hair. This was both reassuring and bemusing. Okay, it was great they were still alive and all, but really? Did we look this old to them? At 10:00 a.m. sharp a young man approached our group. I assumed he was a senior assigned to be our guide. I saw more than one incredulous look when he introduced himself as the principal! You get the idea. High school reunions are not for the faint of heart. But we all survived to enjoy the tour.
One highlight was stepping into the auditorium and being assailed with a wave of deja vu. There in front of me was a recurring image from my dreams! The same thing happened in the corridor outside the cafeteria. I hadn’t remembered what either place looked like, yet they inspired all the auditoriums and cafeterias that have shown up in my dreams since high school. How many of our issues originate in adolescent experiences we’ve completely forgotten? Quite a few, I suspect.
We had a great time. It was especially fun reconnecting with my old girlfriends. Since Linda’s husband went to school in Mississippi he didn’t come, so Sylvia and Rita decided not to bring theirs either. Sylvia said that at the previous night’s football game her husband (who was in a different class) acted like the reunion was all about him so she wouldn’t let him attend the rest of it. Rita said her husband (also in a different class) “tends to talk a lot” and she didn’t want him stealing her thunder so she told him he couldn’t come either! I love it. We’ve come a long way from the days when bolstering the male ego was part of every teen-aged girl’s job description.
The weather was predicted to be cold that weekend so in the midst of packing Fred came out of the closet with his old football letter jacket! Delighted to find he could still snap the waistband, he wore it to the outdoor buffet the first night. In my eyes he was the hit of the party. He says I was. I think that’s sweet. I’ve decided old love is better than young love. How lucky are we to still be together after all these years? Forget it. I’m not telling you how many!
If you want to feel better about your age, I highly recommend turning off the TV shows in which everyone looks 18 and going to your high school reunion. Blessedly, no one there will be younger than you! (Unless the principal leads the tour.) By the way, now that I’ve reconnected with all these lovely people with whom I share so many warm memories, I’ve decided we’ve aged every bit as well as our beloved old school.

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0 Responses

  1. I taught my final class of summer students a poem at the end of my class on Lurrrrrve this year:
    New love is silver
    Wait for the West
    Old love is gold love
    Old love is best
    You have more courage than I, though my mum failed to pass on to me my highschool reunion invite. An old friend told her, “All the lads were fat and bald and all the girls looked the same and older.”
    I think I hated school so much going back and finding the few folks I did get on with was probably not worth the effort. I am so pleased that you found good memories and good people still.
    Thank you for sharing your reunion; warmed my grumpy heart!

    1. Hi Viv,
      High school was not my favorite time of life by any means — I didn’t really begin to blossom until college — but I think it helped a lot that Fred and I went to the same school and graduated the same year. Even though we didn’t know each other until college we had some friends and memories in common, so having each other to share the experience with and talk about afterwards was mutually pleasurable. Another factor is that it’s only a two hour drive back to our home town.
      I love your Lurrrrrve poem!! Thanks for sharing it!!
      My best,

  2. Nice story, Jeanie. I have never attended any of my high school reunions although I am still in touch with a number of long ago friends, and now, with the popularity of social media, I have reacquainted with a few more. Usually, we meet in McSorley’s in NYC for a beer. I think that smaller venue suits me better than a large gathering but I can understand its appeal.
    A year ago, however, and this is going back, fifty of us from my grammar school class in Queens, NY got together for an evening. It was truly grand fun. Lots of laughs. One of the girls, who towers over me in our fourth grade picture, is now eight inches shorter than I am. How’d that happen? I was thrilled when one of the babes of yore told me how handsome I was when I was young only to learn after talking for about ten minutes that she had confused me for someone else. Oh hell, it was a pleasant ten minute fantasy trip, so what the heck. And my best friend and I–we’d hadn’t seen each other in about fifty years–recognized each other instantly–two of the very few guys with full heads of hair, so that helped–and remembered and reminisced about our youthful hijinks, of which there were more than a few.
    Yes, if one goes with the right attitude to these things it can be rewarding. Good for you, Jeanie. I have no doubt you were the hit of the party. And, what a terrific photo.

  3. HI Charlie,
    I love the “babe of yore” story! And how cool that you and your best friend you hadn’t seen in fifty years recognized each other immediately!
    I think you’re right about having the “right attitude” toward these things. Probably everyone has some painful memories from high school. I certainly do. We were just a bunch of ignorant and vulnerable kids in those days, after all. I think knowing how much I’ve grown since then predisposed me to think that most of the others were probably the same, so that helped.
    It also helped — and I hadn’t realized this until your comment brought it to mind — that we spent most of our time at the reunion with a mutual friend who has a truly wonderful sense of humor and being with him and his delightful wife made everything fun! The more I think about this the more important I realize it is. One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about your blog (besides the music) is your sense of humor. Lightness and humor are magical and make everything fun. That probably accounts far more than we realized for the positive feelings we have about this reunion!
    Here’s to growing lighter with the years!

  4. Greetings from India. School day memories are always nostalgic! This a beautiful post and I recall fondly my school days. The most that I could do was to write a small post and honor my favorite teacher. Wish we too had a reunion 🙂
    Many thanks!

    1. Thanks for writing Dilip! I appreciate the kind words. I don’t think any endeavor to honor a wonderful teacher can be considered “small” or unimportant in any way. 🙂 Good teachers are a rare treasure and deserve all the honor they can get!
      My best,

  5. I really enjoyed reading your story. I agree with what you say about our adolescent experiences affecting our lives forever.
    I was not a lover of school so chose, I guess, not to stay in touch with old classmates.
    I’ve also never attended a class reunion but imagine that my classmates, like me, would look older and perhaps fatter. I guess I’m really not interested in how their lives turned out, bad me perhaps.

    1. Dear How to Relieve Stress,
      I’m glad you enjoyed my story. It was fun to write and a change of pace for me! I suspect that as one who did not enjoy high school and does not attend reunions you are in the majority. And I don’t see anything wrong with not being interested in the lives of people you’ve never bonded with, certainly not if the motivations for this kind of curiosity is mean-spirited or self-congratulatory! Better to stay home than go to judge or gloat! Thanks for writing.
      My best,

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