Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Class of '74

37 years ago, we all graduated from our local high school and then went our separate ways, many of us never to see one another again, or so we thought. Like so many other self-absorbed young people, we had just finished four years of high school together, but, in so many, many ways, apart.

We were jocks, geeks, pretty girls, majorettes. We were band kids, writers, loners, pariahs. We were thespians and debaters. We were bad kids, quiet kids, kids who blended into the wallpaper. We were girls who were fast and boys who were weird. 

And we had nothing in common with each other, beyond the tight little circle of friends that each of us moved in. In fact, we had so little in common with one another that many of us went through four years in the same building, sometimes in the same classes or even the same homeroom, without saying a word to each other.

About each other, yes. But to each other? Absurd.

Until recently.

We have coalesced as a class, as friends, thanks to the wonder of Facebook and the persistence of one classmate in bringing us together. In addition to maintaining a class website, Bob (geek, loner) also maintains a Facebook page through which a number of us have met for the first time or reconnected again for the first time in many years.

Like many other high school groups, our class meets every five years for a formal reunion. But thanks to FB and Bob's nudges, our class meets more often at a local eatery for what someone (probably Bob again) dubbed a "mini reunion." There is a flow and ease to these events. They are little things. A few drinks, some eats, some talk, and everyone disperses.


I made it to my first mini reunion last night along with Warren, who graduated two years ahead of me (and who so patiently sat through the evening). In addition to the locals (and we are many), Friday night's mini reunion featured out-of-staters Tonya (majorette) coming in from New Jersey (a not infrequent occurrence) and Kate (thespian, literary magazine, dancer) coming all the way from California back to Delaware, Ohio for the first time in a quarter century.

I was there for the first hour or so, listening to the talk, chiming in occasionally. What I mostly did was watch and marvel. Some of us were poring over old yearbooks. Others were catching up on "what have you done since" the last time they last saw one another. Kate opened her bag and pulled out "the German dolls," small, now well-worn figures she and her girlfriends had played with for countless hours in grade school. Judy (rebel) breathed out reverently, "I remember these."

The last classmate I talked to before leaving last night was Mark (jock), who was sitting on the other side of the table. I can guarantee that Mark and I (band kid, geek, writer) never exchanged one word in four years of high school. Mark surprised me by asking me how my health was and listened very carefully to my reply. He then told me his father died several years ago of multiple myeloma, which is the same cancer I have.

Little connections. Big connections.  

Warren and I left early on, as we knew today held community work. The mini reunion went on long into the night, with some going home and others joining the mix as it rotated to different venues. Tonya and Kate were two of the last standing. I know that because I met them for coffee this morning before hugging them goodbye.

In 37 years, our class of 1974 has gone so many different ways. Some of us are teachers, some of us are small business owners, some of us work in government jobs. Some of us are retired already; some of us are hoping just to hang on in this shaky economy until we can retire. Some of us have had multiple careers. Some of us are parents, some of us are grandparents, and some of us are the happy owners of cats. Some of us have been married more than once, some of us are still with the one we said "I do" to many years ago, some of us never married at all.

We are so different, and yet we are so alike. All of us have a common thread that we didn't realize for the longest time. We share a common past that connects us in ways we would have laughed uproariously over 37 years ago. 

When I look back on those long ago years, I sometimes flinch, I sometimes laugh, I sometimes shrug. My high school years were goofy, horrifying, wonderful, or just plain weird, depending on what hour or day or week you pick. And you know what? So was everyone else's.

I know. I heard it last night.


Brandee Shafer said...

I love your writing times a million bazillion. 1974 was a significant year for me, too. (I guess the MOST significant.)

Arlene said...

Wish I could have joined you for a time, but I was on my way to the farm to do a bit of work, of course, but mostly to attend my own SCHOOL reunion...the 102nd gathering of graduates and friends. Our 3/4 teacher (combined classrooms) joined us; at 87, she still does a bit of substitute teaching. OK... some of the stuff was pretty hokey, but seeing the displayed trophys (basketball, track, citizenship, debate, scholarship...), class photos, school newspapers, journals, photos, news articles, and all sorts of memorabilia from this little high school provided a connection, a reawakening of community spirit and friendship that supported the life directions we followed. Your words capture many of the reasons we need our early relationships in our lives. Bless you, April. Your hammer once again strikes the nail.

Anonymous said...

I graduated in a class of 700! A few of us have collected ourselves together on Facebook and I'm sure that some of my former classmates do have "mini-reunions" that are just this easy. I've drug myself to just two of the ten-year reunions. At the first, I encountered a male classmate in full drag. At the second, I visited with two female classmates, who never married, but were adopting orphans from Romania late in life. Many of the males appeared to have new and younger wives. How big was your graduating class?