Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What I Learned at My Reunion

I’m back from three days at my 50th high school reunion in Edina, Minnesota and it was amazingly fun and moving and left me very proud of my class—especially those who defied illness or injury to show up. Friday night was cocktails and catching up at the Westin Edina hotel, where, during a trivia game, we all showed an uncanny ability to remember the dumb lyrics to those silly rock 'n' roll records of the late fifties.

At first I walked into a room full of tall strangers silhouetted against the windows and recognized no one. (All the guys had white hair and almost none of the women did.) Then I was met with hugs and shouts, and people started to turn into their remembered selves. Someone quoted a friend who had just come from her fortieth reunion: “For the first fifteen minutes, I was depressed at seeing all these old people, and then for the next three days, I was 18 years old again.”

Saturday morning was a bus tour of Edina, which looks nothing at all like the village I remember, where we would play kick-the-can until after dark down by Minnehaha Creek while our parents, busy barbecuing in the backyard, had no idea where we were and what we were doing. Now it’s all very high-end malls and high-rise buildings. The bus took us into Minneapolis proper and we toured the amazing architecture of the Guthrie Theater. I realized that Minneapolis is a very culturally happening place.

At Saturday lunch I gathered with classmates who had also gone to Wooddale Grade School. As we chatted, I began to realize that the men in the group had somehow, over the years, become charming, witty, entertaining, introspective, intuitive, chivalrous and thoughtful. All weekend, to my astonishment, chairs were pulled out and doors were opened for the “weaker sex” and someone always offered to help me struggle into my winter coat. (We had snow and the weather was bitter. On Sunday I left before a storm dropped three more inches. This is Minnesota, folks. No wimpy winters!)

Later I remarked to my daughter that, on the whole, my male classmates were amazingly improved over the last fifty years, and she replied, “Of course they are! What’s worse than an 18-year-old boy?”

Saturday night was the big dinner and dance at the Interlachen Country Club. I got a chance to catch up with some friends who had stayed in touch, but found the noise level and crowding to be intimidating. I’m always a bit claustrophobic and it was such a big and animated group that the hubbub made it hard to carry on a conversation. But the next day at breakfast in the hotel, there was time for some good post-party gossip before heading for the airport.

I believe there were 330 in our original senior class. Now 39 are deceased (the photos above show the memorial photo exhibit from Saturday night.) How young we were in 1959!

When you’re 18 years old, anything seems possible. Maybe you’ll cure cancer or write a bestseller or become a star or make a million—if only you can get into the right college.

When you’re 68, you know how your life will turn out, and for so many, that fifty years after graduation brought loss and heartbreak, illness and disabilities, but almost every one of the 187 classmates who wrote their biographical page for our Reunion Book ended with the words “I have been truly blessed” or a similar sentiment.

When you’re 68 years old, you’ve gained a certain amount of wisdom just by traveling over the bumps in the road. Many of my classmates shared some in their reunion book pages. I wish I could compile “The Collected Wisdom of the Class of 1959” but instead, I’ll just quote three classmates—as it happens all three are women (and now crones, since we’re all over 60.)

One wrote: “A rich life is one made up of family, friends, faith and fun – the four F’s.”

Another quoted Addison’s definition of happiness: “Something to do…something to love…Something to hope for.”

And a third concluded her page saying, “It amazes me how level the playing field is now. The very fact that we have survived 50 years post-high school makes us equals.”

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I, too, went to my big 50. What a pleasure to catch up and realize that while we may look different, in the essentials we remain the same.