5 Reasons You Should Attend Your 50th High School Reunion

Kookie Korner (800x600) (2) (729x550)I almost didn’t go. After all, until her death twelve years ago, my mom kept me up on all the hometown gossip about people I knew (and didn’t know). West Branch, Michigan, has about 2,000 people and my class at West Branch High School graduated 105 kids in 1966. I figured I’d kept in touch with a few of my closest friends, so what would be the point of traveling a thousand miles from my home in Braselton, Georgia, to see a bunch of old folks I hardly remember?

But after perusing classmates’ Facebook pages with fun old photos, I decided what the hell I’d go.

I had a blast, which brings me to my list of 5 reasons you, too, should attend your 50th – or 40th or 60th or whatever – high school reunion.

  1. There is a sense of community amongst classmates. I suppose most classes feel that way, but I was gobsmacked with the sense of camaraderie amongst my classmates. Once I got past the changed faces and physiques, and started remembering people by their voices, I felt like we’d never missed a beat. A number of them and I went from kindergarten to graduation together. There is even one man who was born the same day as me in our hometown hospital and we’ve always known that the nurses switched us, giving each of us to the wrong mother for our first breastfeeding. So he and I have been connected since day one of our lives.

Later on as I reflected upon this feeling of community, I realized that now that many of our parents have passed on, we have no one to share memories of our youth with other than each other. No one else on earth shares our schoolhouse experiences. We can recall the lavender scent of our kindergarten teacher, the jiggle of our third grade teacher’s fat arms, and the joy of shooting off our first rocket in eighth grade. Art class, dance day, playground, cursive, health and safety… Somehow as little kids we navigated the nuances of pending adulthood and survived together.

And when we were young we could never have anticipated the war to come in a land we had yet to ever hear of: Vietnam. Soon after graduation many boys were drafted and went to war. We reminisced about those who never returned. That kind of communal grief would be hard for anyone else to comprehend.

  1. People get better as they age. If you’d asked my 17-year-old self which of my male classmates would become handsome men, I would have been woefully wrong. What a delightful surprise.

And I thought all of the women were beautiful. Maybe it was just a matter of getting rid of our ‘60s hard hat hairdos, but they were stunning. Fun clothes. Glorious white hair. Pretty skin. Plump, slim, and in-between, they all looked great.

I anticipated as much when we were seniors. I gave the Baccalaureate dinner speech. I have no recollection as to why on earth I was chosen to give that speech – it certainly wasn’t because of good grades – but I do remember being reprimanded afterward. I had said that someday we would come back to our class reunion, curious to see if Rudy still had that wink and Jezebel still had that wiggle. Some of the grown-ups failed to see the humor in that. But I now know I was right. And I still think it’s funny.

  1. Old wounds really do heal. There was, of course, a lot of typical teenaged angst back in the day. But we couldn’t remember exactly what it was all about. There were jealousies over boyfriends and girlfriends, to be sure, and competitive rivalries over grades and sports, but all of that old animosity has fallen by the wayside in the throes of real life.

Even my neighborhood bully told me she now knows it was wrong of her to blackmail us other kids into paying her to stay out of our yards. Nice admission, although I noticed that she didn’t apologize. I got a kick out of the irony of that.

  1. Compassion dwells in the hearts of childhood friends. A couple of my classmates have obvious health problems. Rather than pity, however, I saw compassion from others. There was no “poor you,” just concern and caring.

There was also empathy for those who have lost loved ones, especially a child. As one man put it, many of us share the bond of having experienced “the worst day of our lives.”

I suspect by now we’ve all been through so many heartbreaks and disappointments that nothing surprises us. Rather than waste time feeling sorry for anyone else or for ourselves, we get down to the business of taking care of whatever befalls our friends, with as much love and compassion as possible.

  1. That graduation speech was right. I don’t actually remember the speaker or anything he said, seeing that I was pissed off during the whole ceremony. Because I’d been skipping school a lot anyway, I’d decided to skip graduation, too. But my mom grabbed me by the arm and made me go. Anyway, I’m sure that like most graduation speeches ours was about forging our way into the future with guts and glory. Well, wouldn’t you know, it does take a lot of guts and glory to be an adult. We rose above the milieu of life, matured for the most part, and muddled our way through.

I’m not naïve enough to think that everyone waxes fantastic about our graduating class. But still, we’re a group who is – for better and for worse – forever bonded together. If nothing else, that reunion was a good time with old friends, fun music, tasty food, and delightful beverages. Go to your reunion and let me know what it’s like for you. I’m curious to see if you enjoy it as much as I did.         www.lindahughes.com

14 Comments

  • Linda, your writing is absolutely delightful…i am thoroughly enjoying browsing your site this eve and love your book, What We Talk About When We’re Over Sixty…both light-hearted and powerful on many levels…thank you! ✌️

  • No thank you. I got called “queer” and “fag” nearly every day from 7th grade until and including graduation night. My life is not an episode of Frasier. Would you ask a victim of domestic abuse to visit the abuser?

    • Hi Joseph, absolutely not to a visit to the site of abuse. I’m so sorry that happened to you. I hope your life has gone on to be full of acceptance and care. Linda

  • Linda, a delightful read. I may even take the time to read your book. Unlike others reading is a drudgery for me and always has been. Funny when I taught elementary school I became a Reading and Math Specialist. I told kids how reading was very important. I share with them that I a poor reader who want to be better. This is why high school and even college was extremely tough for me. I was always jealous of those who could sit down and read a book with a smile on their face.

    As to our reunion I too almost decided not to go. My lovely significant other said she want to meet my friends. Friends I said, ya right. It was better than I thought but still could have been better. This will be my last class reunion as I will be moving out of state 1200 miles away. Cost and age will now become a factor.

    Absolutely LOVE your blog. Your kind words made this reunion for me one that I will always remember.

    Thanks,
    Randy

  • Your comment about voices struck a chord with me. I have been a clerk in a retail store and I have been a telephone operator. When I look at a customer coming into a store I think about their appearance. And then, when they get close enough to speak to me, the sound of their voice completely erases whatever premature thought I was having about them as they approached. To me, a person ‘s voice communicates their soul. As a telephone operator, I was aware only of the person’s voice. It allowed me to hear that person’s soul without the interference of appearances.
    Your recollection bolsters my own. Thank you!

  • What to share at a 50th class Reunion? I was the girl who got pregnant and had to leave school.
    I think I was forgotten and a new girl in school stepped into my place. All that should have been mine ended up being her’s.
    The father of my baby, the first boy I had even ever kissed. And even my best girlfriend.

    The story is truly long and to me very inspiring but I am not sure I should go to my 50th Reunion to share. I don’t want to have the girl that stepped into my position to feel uncomfortable. But, yet I want them to know how important they were to me and I so missed the last 2 years with them.
    I am not in contact with them, so does it really matter?

    • Dorothy, it sounds to me as if you need to write your story. Personally, I would have to go to a reunion just to get a look at the one who took my place. Ha. Actually, by this time in life we know that no one can ever take our place, although that was the way it felt when we were young. A personal question you may not want to answer: did you keep the baby that you had when you were so young? Yes or no, yours sounds like a good story for sharing, if you ever feel like doing so.

  • I was asked twice to join our 50th class reunion committee. I haven’t seen these people in 50 years and no one introduced themselves to me. I felt like the new kid in school and the clique still continued. I went twice and dropped out from the committee on the second visit. I would have LOVED to help, but I felt so out of place. I may not go to the reunion after this.

    • Hi Cynthia, ah those old cliques never die, it seems, at least in the minds of the few who think they’re the end-all-be-all. If you go to the reunion, however, you might find that there are others you can connect with. Forget the clique. Have a good time on your own terms. That’s what happened at our reunion. If a clique still existed – and it very well may have – it went right by me. I had a good time reconnecting with people who aren’t cliquish, like me. We had a wonderful time. Also, I noticed that some folks who were the “most popular” or stars of everything were just as life-worn as the rest of us. Life doesn’t seem to care much about who was what when we were young. It has a way of reminding us of our equality. Success, failure, joy, and tragedy had struck us all. We’re all in the same boat, paddling along as best we can.

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