Last weekend was my fortieth high school class reunion. My oldest childhood friend and I were talking back around first of this year and we could not believe it would be forty years for our class. My how the years did zoom right on by! We said it would be great if our graduating class could get together this year. We talked it up and began to reach out to others. I give her the credit, she did the leg work, (of which there are quite a few of us that are so thankful!) Since our hometown was having major Labor Day festivities, we aimed for that Saturday. So, from the time we started talking it through, it gave me months to prepare. You know, lose a few pounds, do something about the hair, try to defeat the dark circles under the eyes… right? Right!!
Well, the post-cancer body ended up gaining about eight pounds. The hair, ah, it just is what it is… I am coming to terms with it and do not want the hassle of keeping it colored; and the dark circles, I fear they have attached themselves to me for life! The thing was, even though my thought process went there initially, and these are things that would have made me bonkers, crazy leading up to previous class reunions, they did not cause me any anxiety once I got face to face with this one. I just wanted to be there to have this experience.
We have had other reunions, there was the ten year and the twenty year, which both contained that anxiety to try and be something… better, good enough, affluent, smarter, productive, thinner, attractive, sophisticated, successful, loved, appreciated, accepted… better. After those first two reunions, we did not have another one until the thirty-fifth year. That year, a handful of us gathered together at a local steakhouse, and it was sweet! But this one, number forty, it is special. It is so special to me that I’m struggling to put into words just why. I am thinking that “the right words” would be so many that it would blow this blog up; but I will try to keep it to the minimum!
As the months went by since she and I talked about getting this to happen, there was some interest; but when it really picked up was when this friend sent a message on Messenger to everyone from the graduating class that she could find that was on Messenger. The interest really seemed to pop after that. There were a lot of people that said they were excited about coming, and this one knew where such-and-such was living and would invite them, and did anyone know where he or she lived? Did we know how many were no longer with us? The “talking-up” was on and it looked like we were headed for a good number to attend.
The months flew by and I had been looking forward to this event like nothing I have in a long time. I went to elementary school, through my junior year of high school with the same group of “kids.” The fact that I did not actually graduate with them was something that many of them had forgotten and was kind of funny when I reminded them that I had not been there through the end. My senior year ended up being, for me, about stepping out of the comfort zone of the first seventeen years of my life.
Yes, it was a comfort zone. When you grow up in a rural community, with the same group of children, to adulthood, there is a certain amount of comfort and ease that you fall into. There are special bonds that grow, even if beneath the surface, with these relationships, that can never be created with new friendships in adulthood. This could be especially true when the “growing up” is in a small town, and your graduating class hovers somewhere around the seventy mark, I believe. Yes, you might say that we were a tight knit bunch!
When it came down to a couple of weeks before the event, I was getting a little worried about having a ride. Some of my most difficult moments since my vision loss have been dealing with not being able to drive any longer, and my hometown where I grew up is about a four hour drive from where I currently reside. Hey I have a hard time asking someone to take me to a necessary doctor appointment thirty minutes away, this one would have been nearly impossible for me to ask.
I did have two people volunteer to drive me, when they learned that I was not completely certain of my transportation. One of those persons just happen to be someone that I met on my very first day of my senior year of high school — in the new school, in a foreign country, as far as I was concerned! I don’t know that I’ve ever thanked her for making me feel welcome and helping to make that first day bearable. (Belated thank you Pam!) When she found out that there was the possibility that I might not have a ride, and might not be able to attend, she immediately, without hesitation, stepped up and offered to drive me.
Now this would have been a three and a half hour drive from her house to mine; then a four hour drive to West Virginia; four hours back to Tennessee and then three and a half hours back to Kentucky, and she was serious. It wasn’t just one of those “if you need me let me know” things…. She thought that it would be fun to do, since our class that graduated together in Kentucky was not having a forty-year reunion. I told her that she should come and crash it anyhow! (Also told my cousin, who lives in town but went to a different high school, that she should crash it also. Heck, I was trying to get it all crashed up!)
To my rescue once again, my niece told me that she had planned to drive me all along. She didn’t know what I was panicking about. She got permission to be off that weekend, and ended up driving the three and half hours on Friday afternoon after classes to drive me four hours Saturday morning, then back four hours Saturday evening, to turn around and drive three and half hours back to school after church on Sunday. Those are the kinds of things she does for me on a regular basis. I am not quite sure what I would do without her sometimes!
On the drive there on Saturday morning, I was trying to describe to her how excited I was to be able to attend and to see these people that had been such a big part of my young life. I told her to think about “Agnes” in the movie “Despicable Me,” and how excited she got over her fluffy unicorn and would squeal, “It’s so fluffy!” That is the same excitement that I was facing this day with; although I did refrain from screaming, “It’s so fluffy!” at everyone when I walked in the door. I was thinking it though!
I cannot begin to go into the details about each person that was there. Some of my closest relationships in my whole life were in that room. It felt like coming home, almost immediately. A lot of times these events are somewhat awkward. This one, it was just sweet! We mostly sat around or stood around catching up with each other’s lives. The stories, yes, the stories started! (If you want to go back in time and get your naive eyes opened a little bit, or find out what happened to the class prom money, or if that was just a rumor, or who really did that, or who brought a mega-superstar to prom, you have to plan to attend, or crash, or just show up at the next one!)
Yes, the stories rolled! We really had fun in high school. My niece left there feeling a bit robbed because the huge consolidated high school she attended afforded her none of these experiences that she was hearing us reminisce about. She said we had the “coolest” high school experience. All I could tell her was that the early to mid-seventies were a completely different space and time. We were wedged in between the crazy peace, love, war sixties and the insanity of the eighties. It was just right. We were still allowed to be kids and our world was still a fairly safe place to grow up.
I think that is another reason that this graduating class is so special! We may be one of the last few generations to be able to have enjoyed the pre-cell phone, pre-social media, pre-video game mania that sucks up so much of our young people’s lives. They will never have the same kind of stories to tell that we were telling the other night. Most of them will never experience the simple pleasures that we were afforded.
It was so amazing to see those that are scattered out and about from different states, some really far, that made the drive into town. I can’t lie, it felt a little disappointing that more of the folks that lived in the area were not able, or had no interest in attending. Those were the folks we were really expecting to be there. I told someone this week that I think they take for granted being there, and to them, this may have been just another Labor Day weekend. They have the opportunity, at any given time, to see one another, whether they actually do or not. They probably run into each other at church, at the store, dropping grand-kids off at school, at ballgames and stuff like that. Hopefully, those that did attend can tell them what a special time we had and convince to them to join us in the spring!
To me, this past weekend was another blessing that my God allowed me to experience. There were so many reasons why I might not have been able to be there, but I had an inner confidence that it would be allowed to happen. I am blessed. I open my eyes every day and the main thing that I see surrounding me is God’s amazing light and the blessing of my Lord!
Realize that times goes buy much too quickly. Don’t take people and memories for granted. Embrace them… and possibly scream, “It’s so fluffy!”
“For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.” ~~ Romans 1:9-12 (KJV)