Tag Archives: High School

I Get Mushy About My High School Reunion

I Get Mushy About My High School Reunion

The emails were flying fast and furious. My high school reunion was coming up.

“I’m going to my high school reunion,” I announced to several local friends.

More often than not, they rolled their eyes. “A high school reunion?” they shuddered. “Why would you want to do that?”

I get it.

High school can evoke bad memories, of cliques and hormone-infused drama, of memorizing World War I dates, of diagramming sentences and conjugating Latin verbs and struggling through Calculus. Of being plagued by self-doubt and wanting desperately to fit in.

High school could seem interminable and was something to endure with gritted teeth while we counted the days until graduation. Leaving Chaucer, term papers and a coterie of friends in the dust, many graduates were happy to just be done with it. Diplomas in hand, we marched in cap and gown away from our past and into adulthood.

So why return to the winter of our discontent by attending a reunion, some ask. The very thought holds about as much excitement as the Pythagorean theorem.

My experience was different.

I attended a racially and ethnically diverse urban high school, with almost 900 students in my graduating class. As with any group of that size, there were factions, of course. Conflicts. Alliances and cold shoulders.

But there were fierce loyalties, too.

Commencement was held in the city park, the only venue that could accommodate so many graduates and their families. Most of that day is a blur to me now. What I do remember, though, is the swirl of emotions coursing through me, the anticipation of new beginnings mixed with a sharp pang of regret, the awareness that I was losing something irreplaceable.

My classmates and I had promising futures unfolding. College, jobs, the military. We knew that we would make new friends, but at the same time, were resisting letting go of the ties that bound us.

Forty-five years later, those ties are still intact.

Forty-five years later, we know that the years fly by faster than you can imagine, and with each decade comes a little bit more wisdom. And a bit more sentimentality.

We have experienced life’s ups and downs. Marriages, divorces, illnesses relocations, lifestyle choices. Joys and tragedies aplenty. Aging parents. Bereavements. We’ve been through lifecycle events, we have children and grandchildren, and we’ve made friends and lost friends. But our standing as members of the class of 1971 endures and that is something we will always share.

Every five years, at our well-attended reunions, we hug each other and are reminded once again of two realities:

You are essentially the same person you were in high school.

High school friends know that and love you anyway.

It is reassuring that in this uncertain world, some things stay the same. Looks may change, but people don’t. We look at each other and see the person we knew so long ago, with a rush of memories that are so much fun to share, memories that become more precious the older we get.

We leave each other with promises to get together.

And if we don’t, there is always the 50th reunion to look forward to.

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Are You in Touch With Your High School Friends?

high school

Ask your current friends, “What was your high school like?” and I bet you’ll get this.

“Hated it. Couldn’t wait to get out.”

“Worst time of my life.”

“Couldn’t stand those (choose one or more) jocks/nerds/drama queens/suck-ups/deadbeats who were (choose again) boring/weird/deranged/back-stabbing/shallow/ gossipy.”

Ask them if they attend class reunions. They might say:

“Why in the world would I want to do that?”

“I didn’t care about them then and I don’t care about them now.”

“I haven’t kept in touch with any of them, so, no.”

In my own utterly unscientific random sampling of my generation, I have concluded that high school was pretty much a bust; if not a total disaster, then potentially the most annoying time ever, with angst and insecurity as much of the daily routine as was the cafeteria food served on plastic trays.

I can’t argue with the angst and insecurity; I felt that, too. I can’t deny that I was often impatient to start the next chapter in college. My classmates surely felt the same.

But our friendships were so strong that they superseded the agony that is high school and have lasted all these years since.

My high school was nicknamed “The Castle on the Hill” for its architecture. But let me tell you, this place was no fairy tale. It was an overcrowded inner city school, a hard scrabble, sometimes unstable hotbed of occasional learning and sporadic unrest. My class consisted of almost 900 students.

high school

We learned how to be street smart real fast. You had to. Yet many of us were avid students who also enjoyed after-school activities — clubs, sports, student government and committees — even before you had to be active if you wanted college admissions directors to notice you.

We loved showing our school spirit. We loved being together.

Outside of school? Same thing. I remember chilly Friday night home football games, forming caravans to travel to away games, school dances, hanging out in the Evans’ basement. On Sunday afternoons the guys would play touch football on a local field and that’s where we would gather with our transistor radios blasting top 40 tunes. There wasn’t a lot to do in our town, but just being together made a whole lot of nothing a whole lot of fun.

We said our goodbyes on a sunny day in June after tossing our mortarboards in the air. The anticipation for  summer and college was tinged with melancholy because we knew that we were losing something that mattered a lot: our community.

yearbook

This bittersweetness turned out to be the cement that has kept us in touch ever since. And since we are turning 60 this year, we wanted to celebrate this milestone together.

Twenty of us traveled to New York City last weekend. Friday night we saw “Motown, the Musical” and knew every word of the memorable songs that were the playlist of our adolescence.

Even better, we  celebrated one of our very own on Saturday night, at “Love in the Middle Ages,” a clever, witty and laugh-a-minute musical written by our very talented classmate and friend, Eric Kornfeld. It is sold out for the rest of its run, but if you’re lucky you might be able to catch it when it returns in January.

tickets

Turning 60 isn’t all that bad when you’ve got friends who have known you forever and still love you with all your imperfections. As we grow older and perhaps more nostalgic, we recognize that our high school experience was not typical. But we are grateful that it was what it was.

“We turned out OK,” is usually said by at least one of us.

To which everyone else nods in agreement.

high school friends

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Helicoptering

Congratulations to all the parents whose children have graduated from high school. Your darling sons and daughters are happily morphing from high school student to college freshman.  Commencement is over, yearbooks have been signed (they do still do that, right?) and the quest for a summer job is underway.

You, dear parent, have cried, exulted, worried and philosophized.  But now that your son or daughter is positioned for the next four years, I am here to tell you that it is time to plan for your future.

Consider this: no more “Back to School” nights, sitting uncomfortably in those student desk/chairs while trying to look interested in the expectations or recriminations of long suffering high school teachers. No more PTA meetings, bake sales, soccer tournaments, Halloween parades, choir recitals or  high school musicals.

What are you going to do with all this extra time?

Of course you have your 9-5 job, your gardening club, grocery shopping, fantasy football and all the other mundane tasks that we pack into our days. But be honest now. Is there a part of you that secretly yearns for the carpool line? Will you have to resist driving by the baseball field to catch a few innings? Are you still humming the tunes from last spring’s high school musical?

Good news: your prayers have been answered. These days, the gates of college are open not just to incoming freshmen, but their aging boomer parents as well.

Responding to the outcry of parents who want to retain their position in their offspring’s day-to-day lives, many institutions of higher education have adopted a full scale of parent programming and opportunities for involvement, giving you a way to extend the active parenting years a bit further. Do you have fond memories of serving on a school committee? There’s room for you. Miss volunteering at school events? Just sign up and the job is yours.

And whether your child reacts with glee or despair, you don’t have to cut the apron strings. Not yet.

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