Tag Archives: class reunion

The Reunion

“Why am I here”? That was not a philosophical question I found myself asking, soon after my wife’s high school reunion began, but rather it was a genuine inquiry as to what I had freely gotten myself into. More distressing was knowing this evening was merely the first of two nights worth of reunion festivities. Friday’s gathering was open to all Newton alumni, who were holding their individual class reunions on Saturday, so the racetrack’s lobby was packed with an assortment of graduates (young and old). We were at the Iowa Speedway: the exact venue I publicly opposed, over a decade earlier, when I was a proud citizen of the small town.

I think the racetrack has been somewhat successful, but I’m sure the city, of approximately 15,000 residents, is still trying to recoup its losses from the generous incentives given by the town’s city council. The facility is certainly impressive, but a person could lose their voice, attempting to carry on a conversation, because it’s so deafening inside the huge lobby. I discovered that firsthand since I almost instantly developed a “tickle” in my throat after arriving at the site. It grew into an annoying cough before the evening was through. I’m a far cry from a social butterfly, so I’m positive my raw vocal chords were the result of my yelling just to be heard.

That first night I stuck to my wife, like a conjoined twin, because she’s a class reunion veteran, and this was only my second appearance in 30 years. I definitely found out (as if I didn’t already know) what it’s like to be the third wheel. Some of the male spouses weren’t in attendance while others I’m sure were content conversing with anyone other than myself. Thus, I was forced to give my best performance: acting as though I was interested in all of the “girl talk” encompassing me. Admittedly, I did have a few meaningful conversations, with people from my past, but I was more than a little relieved when the missus finally granted us permission to leave.

Surprisingly, Saturday’s soiree was considerably different. The evening was not only tolerable, but dare I say, it was sort of enjoyable. My wife’s actual class reunion was held outdoors at one of the shelter houses at Maytag Park. The familiar stomping ground, named after the nationally renowned appliance maker’s founder, holds many special memories for my family and I. When I was an adolescent I nearly drowned in the park’s public swimming pool (okay, maybe that memory isn’t so special). However, my wife and I did teach our only child how to ride a bicycle there, and all three of us received our high school diplomas, up on the cement stage, at the Maytag Bowl. Many times my family and I had picnics at the park, and we took full advantage of the wooded area’s Frisbee golf course and tennis courts.

Speaking of which I now have another “special” memory involving those tennis courts. During a rare lull, in the reunion conversations, I noticed some youngsters playing doubles on the courts nearby, so I moseyed on over to watch for a couple of minutes. The foursome unexpectedly stopped playing, just as I was arriving, and were congregating, only a few feet away from me, on the other side of the fence. I felt like a deer caught in headlights, after realizing I was now way too close not to be noticed, yet I was also aware it would surely seem strange to them if I suddenly retreated. Therefore, I quickly opted to harmlessly ask, “Are you guys just starting or finishing up?”

They all looked up at me but did not say a word. The teens just sat there in silence. They said nothing. Absolutely nothing. After what seemed like an eternity, and recognizing their fear, I uttered, “Oh, no…stranger danger,” in a feeble attempt to lighten the mood. Still nothing. I probably should’ve bolted at that point, but I sensed the need to explain why I was at the park, and I wanted to convince them I was not what they were thinking I was…a pervert. Luckily, I think the youngsters bought my story. I did find out the foursome had halted play in order to hydrate and to pick new teams. I wished them well and scurried back to the party.

Some people at the reunion looked pretty much the same, thirty years later, while others were fairly unrecognizable. This one guy swore he knew who I was, but I was clueless as to his identity. He decided he would give me some hints until I remembered who he was. He correctly named the street I used to live on and informed me where he used to reside. The “stranger” told a few ancient stories, I supposedly was a character in, and then he began naming some of “our” friends from the old neighborhood. He eventually did say the name of an old pal I indeed used to hang with; however, he remained a complete mystery to me until out of his own frustration he revealed his name. I did recognize the name, but that was all.

This same guy then began prepping or preparing (I’m not sure which) the rest of us guys for the impending arrival of another classmate’s wife. He had seen her earlier in the day, was obviously smitten with her, and for some reason wanted to assure the rest of us males of her incomparable beauty. The gentleman boldly proclaimed, “She blows everyone here away.” I tenaciously countered with, “Not my wife.” One of the guy’s classmates, standing next to me, then responded in the same manner. I think my “friend” from the past realized his faux pas, or else feared a spousal uprising, since he promptly began recanting his previous statement.

Later that night I encountered the “ravishing” woman. I played high school baseball with her husband. He was a grade younger than I, so he took over the centerfield duties after I graduated. I always liked the guy, and his wife was certainly nice enough, even insisting that she needed a hug from me immediately after we met (Oh, no…stranger danger), but as I suspected she was no match for my wife. By the end of the second evening I was no longer asking myself, “Why am I here?” I knew exactly why I’d been attending the weekend festivities of my wife’s high school class reunion. There’s no where on earth I’d rather be than by my lovely wife’s side.


Reunion Time

It’s that time of year again. This illustrious month is when beaches become crowded, cookouts are in full-swing, and gobs of clueless couples are saying their I dos. Please don’t misunderstand…I love being married, but the divorce rate continues to border on 50%, so half of those “happy couples” eventually aren’t going to be so happy. June is also the time for those dreaded high school class reunions. It’s not that I’m opposed to class reunions, but I figure whichever classmates I wanted to remain friends with, after graduation, I would already still be in contact with without needing an organized get together, every five years, to stay in touch.

For example, my high school sweetheart (aka lovely wife) was my best friend on my graduation day, so I’ve continued seeing her practically every day since. The fact that we’ve been married for almost 28 years now might have something to do with that. The rare exceptions are when she goes on a women’s retreat (I get it – no boys allowed!) and five years ago when the missus flew back to Iowa, to attend her class reunion without me. I gave her my blessing to go solo, but I preferred to stay at home rather than be susceptible to the uncertainty of a high school reunion.

I’m not exactly sure why I just said that since I’m so far removed from being an expert on the subject. I’ve only been to my wife’s 5-year reunion (she hasn’t missed a one), and I have never been to any of mine. That’s just a total of 1 out of a possible 11 reunions I’ve attended in my lifetime. If an elected official possessed a voting record similar to that of the number of times I’ve been present, at any high school class reunion, I’m pretty sure the representative’s anemic voting percentage would be deemed quite pitiful. The only (but major) difference is…I’m not being paid for my presence. I would venture to say I probably know more about politics than I do about class reunions.

However, I presume many people attend their reunions only when things are going well, but they choose to stay at home when their lives aren’t going as planned. I suppose I can’t really blame them for not wanting to discuss an impending divorce, wayward children, or lack of employment with their estranged peers. I imagine class reunions are indeed a boasting contest, so who would want to make an appearance, with those kind of credentials, when there’d be absolutely no chance of winning. I would like to think if I were a Pulitzer Prize recipient, or a famous celebrity, I would not attend my reunions just the same. I’m not sure why I compare high school class reunions to that of other unpleasant situations like visiting the dentist or undergoing a colonoscopy.

My aloof attitude towards reunions may have something to do with the numerous personalities I assuredly would be forced to endure at such a gathering. I purposely aim to spend my time around those whose company I truly enjoy, and I’m positive that would not be the case amid a sea of former classmates. I can barely fathom rekindling a friendship with my former best friend, during our sophomore year of high school, even though at one time we were inseparable. We were baseball teammates, partied together on the weekends, and enjoyed much of the same kind of music (Rush, Journey, and Styx). We had even formed a rock and roll band (mostly imaginary), but then my buddy fell hard and fast, to the lifestyle of a typical rock star, after discovering marijuana.

I experimented with the mind-altering drug twice, alongside him, before deciding that was not the path I wished to continue following. However, by that time my best friend had officially become “a pot-head,” and he issued me an ultimatum; He insisted I either continue smoking weed with him or else we could no longer be friends. Friendship over! My decision was not a difficult one at all. I was stubborn, even as a teen, so I wasn’t about to bow to any peer pressure. In addition, I certainly did not want to be labeled a pot-head like my friend. Once a person is placed into a specific category, by their peers, it’s nearly impossible to find a way out.

I think one of the perils of high school, at least during the early 80’s, is realistically depicted in the classic movie, The Breakfast Club. The film, released in 1985, accurately captures the unfortunate, yet seemingly acceptable, segregation amongst teenagers. The John Hughes masterpiece explores, with brutal honesty, the way our society tends to embrace categorizing individuals. The Breakfast Club focuses on five students, falling victim to five different classifications, simply trying to make it through high school. They are labeled the jock, the princess, the brain, the rebel, and the outcast.

I could expand that list (if I agreed with labeling human beings) to include cheerleaders, goody two-shoes, and the aforementioned pot-heads. Those types of teens could be found roaming the halls, at my high school, in addition to the ones featured in The Breakfast Club. I have to assume some kids were classified as “everyone else” because they did not fit too nicely into any one of the other groupings. I don’t remember there being any “goths” per se, at my high school (I don’t think they had been invented yet), so the outcasts were most-likely the farm kids: the students wearing those dark blue FFA (Future Farmers of America) jackets who literally smelled a bit like a farm. We lived in a small, blue-collar town, so the rich kids were oddities as well.

My wife and I probably fell into the everyone else category during our high school days. She was a pacesetter (not a cheerleader), and I was just a baseball player (not a jock). Neither of us were entirely immersed in any one classification, and we weren’t afraid to associate with classmates from several of the other categories. I guess we appreciated diversity even way back then. I’m not sure if the labels we were given, over 30 years ago, are still intact or not, but I reckon I’ll find out next week when I accompany my lovely wife to her class reunion. I decided to be a good husband, since I’ll be in town visiting family anyway, and prove to her former classmates that us high school sweethearts are still together. I know at least I’m not going to be remembered as a pot-head. It’s reunion time!