What with social media, why would anyone go to a high school reunion? Especially a 50th one! Well, there’s the web and then there’s face to face, rather than Facebook. The latter is OK for casual updates; in person is real. In the end, I went.
Nearly everyone encouraged me to go. I remained ambivalent. I had positive memories of a hip and inspiring English teacher. I learned to write up lab reports creatively in an advanced physics class. The reports confirmed expected outcomes, despite the experiments failing to do so. That came in handy later in college and for doing budget submissions at work.
Then there were the negatives. I had few friends and didn’t get to know many people well. Teenagers can be cruel, as we all know. But it’s been 50 years. I have grown; the tormenters will have aged and undoubtedly mellowed, I thought. I attended the school only my senior year, living with a brother and his family that took me in after my mother passed away during my sophomore year. We moved from Midland, Michigan to suburban New Jersey so he could commute to a Manhattan office. I didn’t like the move but had no choice in the matter.
In the end, I chose to attend the reunion. How had they all changed? What could they offer me? What could I offer them? Would we inspire, amuse, entertain or confound one another? Which would it be, in the words of Bokonon (from Cat’s Cradle), a granfalloon or a true karass? I assumed the former, but went anyway. To my surprise, it seemed more the latter. Forty or so people showed up, including some spouses that didn’t attend the school. A fair turnout 50 years later. Why did it seem so worthwhile?
The school had a mix of locals and outsiders. Rural kids from the area. Children of NYC commuters. Many who grew up there remain. Most who went to college elsewhere, moved on. Some retired to Florida, only a few, like me, moved far west. They were scarce at the event. I came from New Mexico, others from Colorado and the like.
Everyone was friendly and open. Some humorously recounted their misbehavior fifty years before. Despite the long ago escapades, most had achieved some success in life. Those who planned and executed the event did well, with few mishaps. We went on a pontoon boat tour along the Intracoastal Waterway, past the homes of some rich and famous who have winter homes in Jupiter Beach. Here’s a photo of a few of us older folks on the boat. I’m in the center, before my successful diet of 2017.
Try as I might, I couldn’t recall who among them had troubled me back then. They might have been attendees or not. As could be expected, time smoothed out the wrinkles of life and added them to faces. I had the opportunity to share my book, Waiting for Westmoreland, with a few and told others how writing had become my retirement avocation. In a weekend, I learned more of the people than I had in a year so long ago. I am glad that I did. We had laughs, good conversation and more. I had few friends then; I have more now.