Should I still be alive by then, 2024 will mark the year of my high school class’s 50th reunion. For a long time, I considered my high school years to be the best years of my life. It was my first chance at making friends outside of the kids in my neighborhood. I was involved in both band and choir, and most of my actual friends were involved in one or both. Band members got the lockers closest to the band room, as we often had practice in the mornings before school, especially for concert band when we didn’t have to practice marching. Choir was actually a period during the day, so, except for special things like the annual high school musical, we didn’t have to go early, or stay after, school.
Back when the first high school class reunion happened – 5 years in 1979 – we didn’t have the technology to find (almost) anyone using the Internet. I’d been married, last name changed, moved from home, so I suppose I was difficult to find. At least that’s what I told myself, because I never received word of it. So on and so on; I never knew about a class reunion until the 35th year. It was being held in a bar/restaurant, but there were no drinks or food being provided, simply a place to gather and socialize and buy your own food and drinks. And I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t even being held at and supporting a bar/restaurant in our own school district boundaries – in fact, not even in our own county.
During my years at high school, I had friends – band and/or choir members – who were either a year in front of or a year behind my grade. I thought how nice it would be to see some of them, more than many of my classmates, but I didn’t have that opportunity. Those people were formative during my high school years much more than most of my classmates.
As I was working on the process of scanning photos and keeping them digitally instead of in hard copy, I thought about doing that with high school yearbooks. There are plenty of pages in my yearbook that have no real significance to me – things like homecoming courts and clubs like A/V and chess, nor did I really know any of the people associated with them. I thought about how efficient it would be to just scan the pages that were important to me, that had some meaning to my years back then. But, upon reflection, I decided that, no matter how seldom I took them off the shelves and looked at them, seeing them on the shelves gave me a warm fuzzy, so stay there they will. Plus, my yearbook is filled with hand-written well wishes, and I feel like they are more strongly sentimental in the book than on a scanned photo.
Meanwhile, just for sh*ts and giggles, I decided to take my senior year yearbook from the shelf and look through it with a purpose. I wanted to look at each senior’s photo and ask myself if this was someone I’d love to have the chance to see again. I am in contact through social media (some more actively than others) with a small handful of my fellow classmates, and I’d be happy to see all of them again. Out of a class of over 250 seniors, and discounting those with whom I’ve stayed in contact, there are two seniors that I would hug like the dickens if I ever saw them again, and two others I would enjoy seeing where 50 years has taken them. I also discovered that there was one person I would avoid like the plague and two others I’d prefer to not have contact with if possible.
The “best years of my life” carried less than 20 people who have stayed in my life. And of that handful, only three of them have I seen in person in 48 years. How did these alleged “best years of my life” end up giving me so little that I still hold dear? The answer to that lies in the fact that my three years of high school gave me opportunities to learn. Not in the traditional sense, like books and classes and tests, but to have my first footsteps into the world outside of my neighborhood, family and church family. High school was the first place where I occasionally let my real self shine through (albeit in small doses). It was the first real lesson to me that I could overcome things, even if I did it my way and not the ‘authorized by parents’ way.
I read back over this and really wonder if I want to go to my 50th reunion. As the past ones have been at a bar/restaurant kind of place and people just ‘mingled’, mostly in the bar, I’m thinking that’s not worth the effort for me, nor something that sounds like a good time. And yet, if I found out that those two people who I would fiercely like to hug were there, I’d be upset with myself.
At least I’ve got some time to think about it – as I said, if I’m even still alive when it gets closer. Maybe I’ll be able to find a “Plus One” for an escort so I won’t feel like the same wallflower I felt back in high school. Who knows???