Last weekend I traveled to Chicago for a high school reunion that we decided to hold outside of the usual decade milestones. This was #43. I couldn't make the 40th as I had a wedding that same weekend, but it was fairly well-attended and everyone seemed amenable to getting together more often. I was delighted to get a chance to meet with former classmates -- many of whom I had not seen since graduation.
The only reunion I attended was #30. This was pre-Facebook and I hadn't stayed in touch with more than a person or two, moving away from the Chicago suburbs in my early 20s, so I felt odd and disconnected. On the one hand it was intriguing to see people I had grown up with, but so many years had passed that it was hard to find common ground with a lot going on in a few short hours.
My husband had attended his 30th and highly recommended the experience, but he went to prep school in Michigan and had a tiny graduating class in comparison to our large baby boomer-inflated public school. His was more intimate and consisted of a whole weekend of activities as opposed to our short "meet and greet" with dinner and photos.
In fact, I resisted putting up a Facebook profile for a bit as I wasn't anxious to be "found" by school chums. Silly of me, really, because it has opened the door to reconnecting with people that I shared a lot of happy times with, many of whom went to the same kindergarten and grammar school!
Our high school has a bit of glory attached to it; the now-deceased director, John Hughes must have envisioned Niles East to be an ideal representation of a classic Midwestern high school because he used it in three iconic films: Sixteen Candles, Risky Business and Weird Science. After the baby boomers grew up and Skokie became less populated with school-aged kids, they closed the oldest of the Niles Township schools and converted it into an adult education center. Eventually it was torn down completely but it is nice to get to see it "in the movies."
When I shared with friends and colleagues that I was headed up north to a small reunion, many expressed surprise that we were having this impromptu event and that I was in contact with so many of my former classmates. Reflecting on why we might be so open to reconnecting it occurred to me that there wasn't a lot of overt bullying in our school years. Sure, people got picked on and some students were uber-popular while others were wallflowers, but for the most part there wasn't a lot of the meanness that we keep hearing about lately. Being a docent for many years with the Florida Holocaust Museum, we impart a huge anti-bullying message to the visiting school groups, as this is so endemic now in the schools nationwide..
We weren't a very large group at #43 but there were plenty of people there. About half of us came in from out of town. The group most largely represented attended the same grammar school as me, which made it extra special. I also got a chance to spend some time before and after with those I wanted to catch up with on these past 43 years.
When one of the organizers published the list of the attendees I freshened up my memory for some of the less recognizable names by perusing our old yearbooks, appropriately named "Reflections."
The reunion was truly a great experience and I am grateful to those who showed up. It had a much more easy-going vibe than any of the earlier ones, probably because most of us are past trying to prove anything or needing to fit in.
We can appreciate one another now as individuals -- after all, no one but our peers share those unique and poignant memories of our youth. As we age (and boomers are determined to do it gracefully!) it's heart-warming to spend time with people who carry some of your history. After all, we are proof to one another that we were once young, wild and crazy.
Thanks for the memories!
LindaJoy Rose, Ph.D. aka Dr. L J is an author and therapist specializing in Natural Wellness, Subconscious Dynamics and Baby Boomer issues.