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On Class Reunions

January 30, 2015

reunion robinI’m a great fan of reunions. It may be part of my gregarious nature, but I’m always game when someone suggests, “Let’s all get together.” I went close to twenty years without missing my college homecoming (and only started missing when they stopped offering anything for the alumnae for awhile). I haven’t been as consistent with high school reunions because I changed schools in tenth grade and then skipped my senior year. I have continued to attend the reunions of my former school with the people I have known since first grade. In fact, last year, I even attended (and played mandolin at) the reunion of the class ahead of mine, since we’d spent several elementary school years in a “split class”—half them, half us.

Facebook offers even more opportunity to reunite—not just out in cyberspace but in real time. A few years ago, some of my hometown friends and family decided to plan a reunion of members of the church where my father preached when I was a teenager. The congregation had changed buildings and names, and many of the former members had gone elsewhere, but with a little Facebook planning, we managed to bring together about 250 people for an event since repeated.

Last weekend, my husband and I traveled to Nashville, where we both attended college, for the fortieth class reunion for his year (1974) and for the class of 1975. Evidently, the group didn’t have a lot of advanced planning time and decided combining the two years made sense. It certainly did for me, since I had graduated in 1976 but knew as many people from his class as from mine. In a brilliant stroke of marketing, the planners mailed reminder post cards shortly before the event that announced: “Guess who’s coming?” and then listed the names of the couples—quite a few of them—serving as hosts. This assured us that we wouldn’t be the only ones to show up and that, indeed, many of our old friends (and I use the term “old” in both senses of the word) would be there.

While our mood getting ready for the evening was a few notches below the anticipation level of prom, for example, we still had those questions—What should I wear? Can I lose ten pounds in a week? Will we recognize the others? Will we be able to see the name tags without looking obvious?

No need to worry. When we arrived, the woman at the registration desk was the wife of a former roommate of my husband. The next person who spoke up asked my husband (and subsequently told the story to everyone else there), “Do you remember when you saved our lives? Did you ever ride a motorcycle again?” While I hadn’t seen many of these college friends in almost forty years, some are Facebook friends. We didn’t have to catch up on children and grandchildren; we’d seen the pictures. We didn’t have to cast a sly glance at the name tag first.

Ten-year reunions—especially ten-year high school reunions—can be tense affairs. Everyone still feels there is something to gain or lose. Some old cliques are still in place. Levelling has not yet occurred. With the passage of more time, though, I think, reunions become much more fun. Everyone can laugh about our former, younger, naïve selves. The wallflowers have often bloomed. Often, he Homecoming queen and the football quarterback have seen their better days. (Rob Lowe’s caricature of himself “peaked-in-high-school Rob Lowe” doesn’t stray far from the truth.) By the time forty years have passed, we are all glad to be alive, to have survived. We have pictures of our children and grandchildren to share. Talk of retirement enters the conversation. We have stories to tell—the ones our families tired of long ago but that this fresh audience is ready to hear repeated.

I can’t wait to see what’s happened to the Bicentennial class of 1976.

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