Scenes from a Reunion

When I was much younger, I defined high school reunions as “periodic events attended by people who had nothing in common to confirm that they still had nothing in common.”

My attitude stemmed from a disastrous ten-year reunion that I organized at our high school. I thought the venue would be fun. I thought people would RSVP. I thought it would be okay that no alcohol was allowed on school grounds. I was so wrong.

First, we ran out of food. Then, some enterprising soul set up a keg in the parking lot. Then a police car showed up. Fortunately, it was driven by one of our classmates. Also fortunately, I have a different attitude now. It emerged, as I remember, the night of our 20-year reunion. I’d completely lost track of time. I looked at my watch at about 11:40 p.m., and couldn’t remember how long it had been since I’d been up that late on a Saturday night.

My attitude continued to evolve when, as many reunion committees do, ours started scheduling not only a Saturday evening event, but also a subsequent Sunday afternoon picnic so that families could get together to continue to conviviality that had taken place the evening before. Not too many miles from our high school, up in the hills above Stanford, is a road house called the Alpine Inn that students of all ages – not to mention cyclists, bikers, equestrians, you name it – have been frequenting for as long as most of us can remember.

It’s one of those old rickety places with wooden planks on the floor and license plates from other states tacked on the wall behind the bar. It’s got a huge parking lot in the front and an expansive picnic area in the back with tables that can accommodate any number of groups. If someone’s hungry, they order a burger. If they’re thirsty, they get a beer. One year, we decided to have a “reunion between the reunions” – that is, an afternoon get-together during a year that wasn’t a five- or ten-year anniversary of our graduation. And it was so simple to organize – a few e-mails, a few postings on Facebook, no RSVPs, no money to collect.

We’re lucky, of course, in that the economic engine of Silicon Valley has kept many of us here; not all high school classes have that advantage. But the result is as low-maintenance a reunion can get. And so the semi-annual get-together has become an annual get-together.

Last weekend was this year’s event. Classmates from my year, not to mention the classes around us (in fact, I think my class was outnumbered) came together on a beautiful summer day (the photo is of me on the left with two of my – believe it or not – elementary school classmates, Robin and Ben). Some drove in, some flew in, and one even cycled in.

It wasn’t all wonderful. At least twice in the first hour, I effusively greeted women who turned out be from other classes and not who I thought they were. From now on, I’m waiting until the name tags go on before I say anything. Also at least twice, people said to me, “I’m not sure I want to tell you this because I don’t want to see it in print.” I’m gratified that my classmates are reading my blog, but come on, folks, where do you think I get my material if not from my target demographic?

But we also talked about separations and sadness, work and unemployment, about the classmates and teachers we’d lost, frequently opening ourselves up in ways that we never would have done in our guarded youth. It was the kind of day that makes me realize that my first definition was wrong.

For all our cliques and snubs of so many years ago, there is indeed a bond that forms from going through the hell of adolescence in the same time and place. And rather than withering, that bond strengthens over time. And now, having become adults and experienced in our work life more disconcerting hell than high school, the pettiness has eroded and left us with fonder memories, especially of weekend afternoons in a secluded picnic area in the hills.


About middleagecranky

The Middle-Age Cranky blog is written by baby boomer Howard Baldwin, who finds the world, while occasionally wondrous, increasingly aggravating.
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7 Responses to Scenes from a Reunion

  1. Heidi says:

    So what makes the difference between high school reunions (which you plan & enjoy) and Stanford reunions (which you tend to avoid participating in)? Since we’re approaching the one-year countdown to our 35th LSJU reunion, I’m genuinely curious & interested in your thoughts & feelings on the matter!

    • That’s simple. I spent 12 years with my high school classmates vs. 2-1/2 years with my Stanford classmates. And the crucible of undergraduate bonding is freshman year, which I spent at another school entirely. I spent all my Stanford years in a fraternity, and those are the guys I still socialize with.

  2. JM says:

    It was good to see you, again! Funny how I met you at my neighbor’s daughter’s high school graduation, sharing a table, talking about where we grew up…

    “I lived in Palo Alto..”
    “Really, me too. What high school?”
    “No way! That was MY high school. What year?”
    “Get outta here! That was MY year!”

    Since Gunn was only one of three high schools I attended, I don’t have such deep roots, but I still enjoy seeing people and remembering. This year, many folks didn’t remember what I remembered. Either I’m getting old and imagining, or others are getting old and forgetting, or folks are still not comfortable with remembering…

    Hope to see you again.

    Jim March

    PS: Mike is fine. I told him I saw you at the reunion and said hello for you.

  3. Paula says:

    Thank you Howard. We are all very fortunate to have this lasting bond, and to have you to articulate it! As always, loved seeing you. Same time, same place next year, ok?!?

  4. Cindy Costell says:

    Howard, so glad you are still meeting with your friends. I remember attending one of your Zott’s reunions as few years ago as a teacher guest. Feels weird to see all you kids, um, less young —
    but sticking together sure helps !

    Agree about the HS vs college reunion draw. I’ve attended only one Stanford reunion, the 50th is upcoming, and I will probably not crawl across the street to get there. But the 50th high school thing – I moved heaven and earth to get back to Kansas, and was amazed to feel the closeness among all of us. After this many years, where you studied, what you did, how much money you collected, doesn’t really matter. It’s the challenges won – and it turns out, we all face them.

    Have to tell you – a few of us from a cappella choir organized a choir rehearsal for the AM of
    Day 2. Imagine standing next to the same folks you sang with 50 years ago, again singing “When you walk through a storm hold your head up high…” I couldn’t see the music for the tears.
    There was one classmate living locally who skipped the entire reunion hoo-hah, but made sure
    he showed up for that choir rehearsal. And made a video of it and sent us all the DVD.

    I was part of a girls’ sextet that took gold medals at the Kansas State Music Contest. All of
    us came to the reunion, and we also got to harmonize together again. Older is not always
    better, but there are excellent moments. Onward !

  5. Pingback: Summertime Serendipity | Middle-Age Cranky

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