Tag Archives: 50th reunion

50th High School Reunion

I remember seeing the play Brigadoon when I was in Junior High School.  It was a story of a magical village that reappeared every 100 years.  It wasn’t a hundred years but my High School class of 1967 reappeared after 50 years in a weekend class reunion and it was magical.  I, like most of you, have mixed feelings about reunions since some of our High School experiences sucked, but believe me when I tell you that after 50 years nobody cares if you were: smart or stupid (a little harsh), rich or poor, popular or loser, athletic or challenged, beautiful or plain, bullied or bullier, since 50 is different–everyone is just happy to see other survivors and either can’t remember or choose to ignore past drama.

From the time we checked into the hotel the Reunion Committee made sure that all were greeted like long lost best friends whether you were the prom King/Queen or a dark loner.  The traditional name-tags with your High School photo was issued so all could recognize who that old person really is and greet them with the obligatory: “You look great”.  Whether you’re young or old name-tags rock since I am name retention challenged.  Wisely the class organizers offered discounted rooms so the already disoriented didn’t drive after adding to that “where am I” state with some drinks.  The well thought out welcoming plan included a hospitality room to pass the down time by reacquainting attendees, offering free beers and snacks to help dull the shock of seeing and re-configuring aged classmates.  There was also a display table showing off the amazing creative talent in the class.

The formal festivities started with a get together at our hometown American Legion.  Going to an American Legion is like taking a time machine back to the 60’s complete with all the beer we drank at 16—what’s an IPA?  It’s always an initial shock when all of us self-perceived youthful, fit looking people see all the old people but the joy of reconnecting with the people who you did all your firsts with morphs all into those 60s kids.  And since we are all old you can be confident that even the people who look like they haven’t changed a bit on the outside have some sort of crap going on inside.  But the Legion is the perfect environment for 150 old people to gather, listen to live 60’s music (performed by classmates), and pretend they can have conversations over the amped music—”Great to see you!-What? What? What? What?”…In spite of only being able to hear every other word the night really belonged to our great High school Band musicians and singers (some professionals today) reunited to rock the house.Reunion cartoon loud music

Saturday night was the big party at the Marriott with dinner and a DJ playing our 60s music all coordinated by our, as good as Jimmy Kimmel, master of Ceremonies John P.  It started with a Happy Hour reconnecting long lost friends and connecting new friends who wouldn’t have even considered talking to each other in our school days.  Seniors, use to discounts, were a little shocked at the premium hotel prices for drinks but this wasn’t a group that needed many wines or beers to put them to sleep.  Dinner and dinner companions were great: aggrandizing our teenage adventures, making up old people crap, listening to the deserved compliments to those who worked so hard on the reunion, and watching presentations on our glory days and tributes to military service people and our lost classmates.  And after dinner the hunger for those senior freebies was finally satisfied by the serving of hundreds of pastries met by a shark-like feeding frenzy.  Dancing showed glimpses of past “American Bandstand” moves blended with Seinfeld’s Elaine moves.  But mostly it was conversations with a group of people just looking to have fun and share their life experiences, love, and respect with those who belonged to an exclusive club—the class of 67.Qote from five rivers "...to find myself"

And then as quick as it had started the reunion weekend was over and the magical village would fade into fond memories of spending time with great people who you wished you had spent more time with way back when.

If you are thinking of skipping a 40th or 50th reunion—reconsider.  The truth is that a lot of our High School experiences were painful, but the mind seems to filter out the bad stuff as we get older and so the 50th is a total redo with an opportunity to party with a whole new group of people.  I really took advantage of the redo since I was pretty unfocused in High School and a pain to teachers, so my redo was being able to buy a beer for one of those teachers and receiving a thank you!  And thank you to all who attended and made this a definite bucket list experience.

Reunions: You haven’t changed a bit

High School reunions are the cross that all of us bear.  We never imagined when walking the halls of our High Schools, we couldn’t wait to leave, that the class president would be popping up in our emails to remind us that our 5 year reunion was approaching and mark your calendars to reunite with all the people that you had gratefully left in the past.  I have mixed feelings about going back to revisit the hallowed halls of heaven and hell.

The 5 and 10 year reunions are dominated by doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs who really are all about success and image rather than schmoozing with the masses. Cliques are still intact and the outsiders are still on the outside.  Where did you go to school? Where do you work? Where do you live and vacation?  Throw your business card in a hat and see you at the twentieth.  You haven’t changed a bit, but you do have even more self-perceived-importance?

The twentieth reunion is where the atmosphere starts to change. This is where the average, under the radar alumni start attending because nobody gives a crap about what kind of car you’re driving as long as you’re well enough to drive.  The main topics of conversation shift to kids and pets and the mind transforms all those past nasty teacher and classmate relationships to all hugs and kisses.  See you at the fortieth or fiftieth—hug, hug, kiss, kiss! You haven’t changed a bit, but you aren’t as big a jerk as I remember!

The fortieth is just a warmup to the fiftieth but like preseason football it prepares you for the big one. People have had enough time to embrace their physical changes: thinning or no hair, wrinkles, turkey neck, weight change, memory change, slow motion, and shrinkage. That huge hunk of a quarterback hobbles around a head shorter than in his glory days. This might sound like a bummer but God has created the mind with an accepting, don’t give a crap chip that replaces vanity with a true caring, mature, pay it forward aura.  You haven’t changed a bit–if you squint!reunion cartoon

The big fiftieth arrives and you go through your closet to find that suits and dress clothes either are dated or don’t fit,  but that mellow mind chip kicks in to make that plaid comfortable shirt morph into a dress shirt—perfect. Usually these events start with a night at the local tavern where everyone can get used to the transformations of their classmates.  Most are comfortable with their aging look and their only concern is that their shoes don’t get velcroed together as they hug old friends. It’s standard that all have name-tags with their High School photo which at first doesn’t look anything like the stranger in front of you.  But magic happens when, similar to attending a greatest musical legends tribute show where the impersonators start their acts not looking anything like the star they’re mimicking but as the show goes on you would swear that they are that star, the old friend in front of you becomes that High School buddy on the name-tag. Everyone looks the best they can after 50 years of unique life experiences, both victories and bumps, and the only beauty competition is the dueling grandkid photos.  The party goes on sharing past memories and life stories often aggrandizing the good old days with a dash of made up crap. It’s hard to believe that 1960s fifteen cent drafts have morphed into seven dollar craft beers—good old days rock.

The final night is usually a dinner and most have abandoned the goal of sitting with their best buddies and only care about reconnecting with all and actually hope to sit with people they really didn’t hang with because after 50 years all are interesting, amazing people with great war stories. Class leaders know enough to let all chew their food and relieve their prostates before some anticipated words both funny and serious including some deserved prayers and remembrances of deceased classmates.  After lots of group, individual, and wonky selfie photos heads start nodding as the clock strikes eleven, way past most attendee’s bedtimes.  As we all shuffle through the exits heading back to our individual world’s most realize that these goodbyes might be the last and that these are the amazing people who helped make us who we are—we haven’t changed a bit!

Thanks to my wife’s class of ’65 for letting me be a guest at their celebrations.  I even got to ride a float in a parade—one less item on that bucket list. It was a pleasure to party with and watch the interactions of classmates. They showed me that after 50 years the only thing that matters is that you made it this far and the people in the room all are the best. So if you were the most popular or the perceived biggest loser, don’t miss that big reunion because the playing field has leveled and that’s what has changed.