Reunions. Events to anticipate. Events to dread. Most years, my life includes a few enjoyable family reunions. This year, however, it’s been school reunions on my calendar.
I’m a self-confessed wallflower, so I’m not sure why I have this compulsion to attend school reunions. But there I was, saying yes to three events.
The first was an invitation to the reunion connected with the 100th edition of a yearbook. For the two years I worked on my master’s degree at this university, I worked for the business entity that published both the newspaper and the yearbook. It was interesting work. I did, however, spend most of my time in the radio-television department as a graduate teaching assistant and with the friends I made in that department. I had few social encounters with the other students in the journalism department, not because they weren’t great people – they were – I simply spent most of my time elsewhere.
For the yearbook, I was a copy editor, and I wrote a few articles. I haven’t kept in touch with anyone from those days, probably because I was at least 10 years older than most of my classmates. Yet I was back on campus, amazed at the changes and how everything still managed to look the same. I spoke with a few people, managed to snub a favorite professor, bought some gear at the bookstore, wandered through the two buildings in which I spent most of my time, drove by my old apartment, and spent a couple of wonderful hours perusing the internationally recognized museum of art.
As the weekend progressed, I realized that it would have been better if I’d stayed home. I may visit campus again – there is always the bookstore, the new (to me) library and that great art museum to explore. Another reunion? Probably not.
It was a different story when I headed to my hometown several months later. It was homecoming at the university where I received my bachelor’s degree, and a reception was scheduled to honor a man I consider a mentor and a friend. He was the head of the radio-television department, and I worked for him, both as a student and as a faculty member, in addition to being in classes he taught.
This time, it didn’t matter if there were people there to talk with – although I hoped there would be some familiar faces. I was content to attend alone and simply say hello to Jack. As luck would have it, there were several people I really wanted to talk with, people I hadn’t seen in some time. Overall, a much more satisfactory experience.
Three weeks later, I was back for my 35th high-school class reunion. Now, the term “wallflower” completely describes me during those six years of junior high and high school. It’s not a favorite time of my life, as I’m sure many of you would agree. It is, however, a time that helped shape the person I am today. I guess it wasn’t all bad.
Most of us grew up in the same town; some of us attended school together from kindergarten through high school. I found the photos from my grade school and took them to the second night of the reunion. (Thanks, Mom!) I was amazed to realize that several of the people in my graduating class had also been my classmates in kindergarten. In the photo at right, I was 7 (I'm in the front row, second from the left).
The years have mellowed all of us. Some of the sharp divisions from high school have faded, and the clichés aren’t as pronounced as they were in our teens. There’s curiosity as to what we’ve all been doing for the last 35 years, what we look like in our 50s as opposed to how we looked at 18, and what our families are like. Maybe part of the change is that we’re all more comfortable in our own skins (totally opposite of our teen-age years) and we have more confidence (again totally opposite of teen behavior).
It was a bit more difficult to recognize people this time around. More gray hair, or less hair, a bit more weight, simple aging. (You can see how much I've changed; at left is my senior photo.) We are becoming our parents! Many talked about their children, or even their grandchildren. If I remember correctly, we even have a couple of great-grandparents in our midst.
Since the weekend was the high school’s homecoming, all alumni were invited to the assembly during which the royalty candidates were presented. There were other presentations, a few numbers by the school’s glee club, and then lunch in the cafeteria.
This year, a good friend was back for the reunion. We wandered the halls after lunch, reminiscing. Although we couldn’t reminisce about this building or many of the teachers. Our class was the last call the former high school across town home for all four years of our high school careers. And many of the teachers have moved on in the last 35 years. Fortunately, for us, not all have done so.
We found the biology room, and as luck would have it, our favorite biology teacher was there, completing those final teacher duties needed after students have left for the week. She’s been teaching at the same school for 40 years. Amazing! And she remembered both of us! My friend is also a teacher, and the two of them had an interesting conversation before another former student arrived and our time was over.
Friday night many of our class attended the football game, while others of us gathered at a local watering hole to chat. Saturday night was more formal, with a catered dinner at a new meeting hall (in what was the only movie theater back in the day). There were yearbooks on tables, photo albums from previous reunions, clippings from our high-school days, and a slide show on the big screen.
One new wrinkle: We all introduced ourselves after dinner on Saturday and said a bit about our lives. Many mentioned spouses and children; some of us talked about work.
Quite an interesting weekend. And I’ll attend future reunions; I signed up to help with the next one!