When a Class Reunion is the Worst of Times

 
By this age, either you’ve been to a lot of class reunions … or it has been a lot of years since you’ve been to one at all. Steve Meador – Class of ‘72 – just went to one that his wife put together and wonders, in this piece for BoomerCafé, why it wasn’t better attended.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”
~ Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

I was in Ohio recently, for my wife’s 35-year class reunion, and I have since been thinking about how Dickens’ opening line is as appropriate today as it was in 1859.

Steve Meador

I watched my wife invest hundreds of hours over several months as she called and emailed classmates, then smiled as her list of attendees seemed to grow. In the end though, only 75 of the class of 351, plus spouses, friends, or partners, showed for the event. Twenty-three have passed away. Which leaves about 250 who just didn’t come. It is hard for her and me to conceive that anyone would not want to see the people they grew up with. Could it be that high school was mostly the worst of times for so many?

We all know, there are numerous reasons for not going to a reunion. Work/vacation schedules, financial issues, previous commitments, bad health, concern over appearance, etc. They’re all understandable, but responses like, “Not interested,” “I already see everyone I want to see,” or “It’s the same old place with the same old food,” just seem to me to be foolishness.

I wanted to do a Top Ten Lame Excuses Why I Can’t Come To The Reunion, but it was forbidden. Now that it is all over, I have condensed the list to four and will do it anyway.

  1. I was going to come, but looked on the updated class list and found I was deceased.
  2. My money is tied up in gold and silver in offshore accounts. (Actually, the person who fits did pop in, but wrote the committee a bad check.)
  3. My husband (the classmate) has a big truck and he muds on the weekend. (I suppose there is a place where reunion-snubbing mudder truckers gather.)
  4. Our dog had puppies and someone might be coming over to buy one that night.

The number 1 reason is part playful and part truth. Information was provided that a member had passed away and the error was only discovered and corrected the day before the reunion.

Cheri Jacob (right) with her former classmates.

Reunions have their trying moments, like when someone pulls out the frosty, plastic photo jacket and it unfolds to the floor while you stand and endure thirty-two pictures of kids and grandkids you know nothing about. Then there is the whispering in the corner about a couple of classmates who look incredibly better than ever, but certainly not by the hand of nature or by God. And there’s the member with the robust appetite who takes the last two pieces of your favorite dessert, while you are waiting at the end of the buffet line.

All in all, the way I see it is, a few short hours of the best of times where we engage our wisdom to analyze and rationalize our foolishness during the worst of times. It’s great entertainment, and for a snippet of time it allows us to be young again. Nobody should ever miss out on that.

In 2012 it will be 40 years for me. I hope everyone from the Defiance class of 1972 who reads this will attend. If you do, I will promise not to tape a KICK ME sign on your back, shock you with the capacitor taken from electrical shop, or blow a palm-full of pepper into your eyes. If any of those things ever happened to you in the past, this time we will just sit and have a pleasant visit. And I might even apologize.
 

20 Comments

  1. If I got an invitation I would certainly RSVP – that I wasn’t coming. I was really shy and dorky and only had about 2 friends the whole 4 years. I wouldn’t know anybody, and don’t really care! But your wife should at least feel satisfied that she worked on something that was meaningful to her, and I’m sure to the attendees. Best wishes.

  2. After reading this article…I had to think about my high school years. Was this a time in my life that I wanted to relive and remember? I did go to one of my class reunions and it was just like back in high school. No matter what everyone was doing today… everyone still sat with as many in their old click as had come. So save the ID’s with old class photos, put away all of the old yearbooks, and send me a message on Facebook to see how I have been doing.

  3. Love the list, especially #4. I didn’t go to reunion #40 for reasons just about as silly and now I regret it. Some folks I’d like to see are not around anymore.

  4. Class reunions are sentimental capitalist journeys. Nothing wrong with that.

    I went to my 30th class Re-Onion dressed as a nun with a 48 hour shadow. I stood, black and white, outside the bulletproof double”glass”doors, with the GetSmart-TeenageBioTerrorist-TitaniumContainment-BackupSystem, holding my collection bucket (deceptively disguised as an automated Salivating Salavation Army Santa), pleading each entrant to back up their socio-personal engrandizement with an alm for the pores.

    -excerpt from from “I di’nt grow up like Miley” – Flash Fiction Memoirs By David E. Haase

  5. I feel about reunions like the Hass translation of poetry in which he says something like walking the streets of Kyoto and hearing the cuckoos cry I long for Kyoto

    in other words, we are different, it can’t be the same, folks you didn’t care about then, you really don’t care about now. It’s like that song, “that old familiar pain” it reminds me of I dunno, like when you have a repeat of something that HURTS and while having it you say “oh my GOD I remember this” like the times I had surgery and woke up all disoriented in that holding tank room.

    I guess you’d say I don’t like them. I don’t like parties, and if we socialize I like 2 or 4 or 6 people max. Another couple is ideal, I’d rather see 27 weeks of two people at a time that be at a reunion with lots of people.

    Thanks for the input and asking about our feelings.

  6. High school for me was definately the “worst of times”. I have never been to a reunion nor do I plan to attend one. Out of my 350+ classmates, I found no friends, only heartache and tears. They all loved to hear me sing….nothing else. My friends were older or younger. I have never heard anything about even one of our reunions so they don’t miss me anymore than I miss them.

  7. I met my wife in high school, we dated, married, had three great kids and still have a wonderful time together. This year will be our 40th Anniversary though we dated for six years before marriage. She is my daily reunion. Others have fallen by the wayside as interests changed. We’ve had several opportunities to attend reunions but after two, we felt no real need to see what others were doing. Same with those whom we are close. High school was history and while fun with many good friends, time moves on and so did we. We prefer to live in the present.

  8. I enjoyed reading this and I enjoyed high school. But, must say, I concur with many of the above comments – including the person who wrote: “We prefer to live in the present.”

    I remember attending my 10 year reunion. It was a lot of fun. We all still had much in common, and high school memories remained fresh. Apparently, however, people do not all age at the same rate over a long span of time. I did not attend the 20th or 30th reunions, but was taken quite by surprise at the wording of the recent invitation to our 40th high school reunion. It read, in part:

    “ … The Reunion is scheduled for this coming September, not far off in dinosaur years. Past Reunions were great fun, but this one should be a bit different. All the swagger and bragging of past years is long gone. The only thing we have worth bragging about these days is our grandchildren. At this time of our lives, everyone is probably just happy to wake up each morning. Too many from our class are no longer with us, so let’s all get together while we are still able.”

    Oh my goodness! When did everyone get so old? My reply was as follows:

    “Gee, as truly exciting as this senior citizen rally sounds, I will not be attending. You see, I’m at the peak of my career with, apparently, far too much swagger remaining; am far too busy to gauge my time in dinosaur years; my children are only 8 and 12, so grandchildren are not even on my radar screen as yet; and, at the ripe old age of 57, I still manage to get out of bed each morning unassisted and looking forward to an active, busy, productive day. I do hope you will all have fun, but be careful not to over-excite yourselves since we cannot afford to lose any more from our dwindling class ranks.”

    I suspect that will be the last invitation they ever send to me.

  9. Eric and Ken,

    Thank you for the excellent words. You are both about my age and, Eric, your situation nearly mirrors mine. We dated in high school, through college and have 3 boys. I guess I don’t really see the reunions as living in the past, that certainly would not be an effective arrangement for living, but more as a once every five years to socialize. I have found that little is spoken of the high school days, more about the current, maybe a little about the in between. Ken, have to say that I might feel the same if I got an invite like that. Humor has to be delicately handled!

  10. I was just invited to my 30 yr reunion. High school was certainly the worst of times for me. Remember the kid that everyone picked on? Well, she grew up. Got married to the most wonderful man! Has the best kids & yes -grandkids! Life is Great! Never have I looked back! Like the above comment.. I prefer to live in the present! Why would I subject myself to that.. For some lame apology? I got over that years ago! Life goes on & mine has only just begun.. Sorry, I’m too busy living that day!

  11. I went to my 10th and I went to my 20th. I’ve not been back. I have no desire to go back. I’m not even on facebook, because I saw how high school friends of my children were getting in touch with them. I don’t want to answer questions about what I’m doing now, etc. And I don’t care to know about them. High school was great. I truly loved it, but I’m over it.

  12. Hd and Vicki,

    Thank you both for reading and commenting. Whether a piece leaves you feeling good, bad or indifferent, it is a pleasure for the author to get feedback. And to both of you, yes, yes, yes, life gets better as we go along, as it should! Hopefully, I will have something else posted at Boomer Cafe in the future for you to check out.

  13. I have lived in the same area all my life, yet never received an invitation to the 5th, 10th or 20th reunion. Only because of facebook do I know about the 35th reunion. Am I going? No. Why? Even after joining the group and participating in several conversations (posts) about local hang-outs, people, events, etc., and after pointedly asking several people if they were attending, not one person has asked if I would be going. The people who were in the student council, band, and civic groups are the ones planning it. I was not friends with them then, and apparently still have little in common with them now.

  14. Virginia,

    Thank you for commenting. I had no idea I was opening up a can of worms! My 40th is coming up in summer of 2012 and, obviously, I will go. I sure wish I had a magic wand to help cure the feelings many people have about those years. Perhaps I can someway get in touch with Harry Potter and solicit his help. Hope you change you mind and go!

  15. Nice article Eric! I know for a fact that I would not like to live my elementary, middle, or high school days over. Ugly duckings we all were in one form or another! However, those years are behind us and the learning goes on…in new ways. We (classmates) went to the only high school in town so we all know each other in some way i.e. homeroom, study hall, same courses, sports, lunchroom etc. We may have said “hi” to each other and maybe exchanged a few words. I may have not hung out with you but your presence be it positive or negative in my past does have meaning to me. As I looked at the list and see non-interested classmates or those who have “past on” a little bit of my heart/spirit aches. I will be there…it’s on my calendar. Thanks Eric for taking on this challenge.

  16. Not being interested in attending is a legitimate reason. Some people like these things, some don’t. What’s annoying is when the reunion enthusiasts hound you for not going. If you haven’t showed up for any of the other reunions, you would think that they would get the idea that you’re not interested in coming to the next upcoming event. So another reason not to attend: putting up with stupid, the world revolves around me people.

    1. Thom, most have never and will never, regardless of the school or class, and that is how it is. I am with you, if folks don’t want to come, that is their choice, however, doesn’t mean they will not be missed. No, there is no reason to berate, talk about or worry about any person not in attendance. My reunion is in July and although I am disappointed in the registration numbers…tough taters. Thanks for reading and posting your thoughts.

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