PARK HIGH CLASS OF 1977
The following column by Katherine Lanpher appeared in the Sunday, June 15th, St. Paul Pioneer Press. Used by permission. Whether you're planning to make the reunion or not, you'll probably recognize some of her sentiments!
P.S. -- We don't understand her problem with the keg, but based on the puzzlingly vehement food critiques, we took sodden gristle lumps and pallid chicken off the dinner menu... Thanks for the tip, Kathy - want to join the Reunion Committee?
20 years after school, everybody grows up
Pity the luckless souls who organize high school reunions. They have to deal with the likes of me.
The card arrived in the mail a month or so ago. I looked at it, sighed, then put it on top of all the other mail deemed important enough to keep, but not so pressing that I have to deal with it. I hope there isn't a collection agency for wayward reunion attendees.
"Dear Member of the Class of '77: We've tried friendly notes. We sent you a stern letter. We even called your mother. If you don't R.S.V.P. now, we'll spend the entire cocktail hour talking about you behind your back!"
Somehow I never manage to elude the good folks who organize my high school reunions. I wonder how other people do it, if they end up living in geodesic domes in the middle of a desert, communing with the cacti while celebrating the fact they will never, ever have to converse with the quarterback who now sells cars.
I dread the syncopated patter of reunion conversation, sort of an inverse of the information trade that goes on your first week of college. Then, you're greeted with "Hi-what's-your-name-what's-your-major-where-are-you-from?" At reunions it's: "Hey-you-look-great-are-you-married-any-kids?"
Tell your high school friends that you are skipping the reunion and you are met with incredulity.
"What do you mean you're not going?" an old buddy complained over the phone. "You have to go."
Well, no, I don't. Besides, he's going for the basest of reasons: revenge. Not to show off his success - he's done quite well - or to flaunt his happy home life, but to get even with his wife, who insisted he attend her 20th reunion a year ago.
The man drove cross-country by night so he could show up at a pallid chicken dinner in a Midwestern country club and trail his spouse all evening. It would have been easier, I told him, if she had just tagged him and put him in a lineup with all the other beleaguered husbands and wives forced to attend a reunion where they don't get the jokes about the calculus class.
Now she gets to be Exhibit A. I might feel more enthusiastic about my own reunion if my husband would accompany me. No chance. He is going to be out of the country, the timing of which strikes me as just a tad too convenient.
Even though I moved out of state, several of my old friends live in the Twin Cities. This means that I run into former classmates all the time, like the other day, when I bumped into a good friend at the gym.
"I called the reunion committee," she said, "and signed up. Then I gave them your new address."
"You ratted on me?"
"Yup," she said, positively gleeful. "You're not going to get out of this one."
In truth, I've attended two of my reunions. I skipped the first one, at five years, which turned out to be a blessing. I have my own formula for how to approach reunions; trust me, no one has anything to say after a mere five years.
That reunion was held at a barn and the entertainment centerpiece was a keg. Our 10th reunion was at a social hall. I'll never forget the food, sodden lumps of gristle swimming in pools of grease, offset only by the fact that the cash bar charged $1 a drink. People still didn't have anything to say, but watching them try to say it was sort of amusing.
After 15 years, however, the tone of the reunion changes a bit. By then, everyone has been sucker-punched by life at least once. A parent has died or a marriage has foundered, a job went bust or a dream failed. The masks slip a bit and you see less of the kid you hung out with in homeroom and more of the adult she or he became.
If you're lucky, that is. The most irritating reunion comment I can think of is: "Why, you haven't changed a bit." I always want to grab the offender by the lapels, the better to detail all the heart-rending alterations in my life since I was a hapless teenager. Now wouldn't that be a switch from offering wallet-sized pictures of the kids or an instant photo of the new three-car garage?
I'm not daunted by the prospect of seeing old classmates. No, my reluctance to attend, I fear, has more to do with the prospect of seeing the old me, reflected in the memories of others. And if I go, it will be because I will have plenty of company - all those other members of the Class of '77 who are trying to figure out where 20 years went so fast.
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