Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane Widler Wenzel co-author Rainy Day Thought. Diane generally posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments are always welcome and appreciated as it turns an article into a discussion.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

High school reunions

There were three things for which I was not looking forward this summer-- two high school reunions and one jury duty. One I had a choice about, two I did not. I got the jury duty over in July with one pretty nearly day-long trial. The first of the high school reunions happened last week-end with Farm Boss's 50th. This was the first one he and I have either attended and unless something unexpected comes along, September will see my last one.

There were reasons I had never gone to one. Mostly because I thought they would be shallow gatherings all oriented around something that ended __  number of years ago. I figured mostly they'd be for those who felt their high school years were their best and wanted to relive them however shallowly they could do it. I did understand they also are a time to reconnect with friends lost along the way. Maybe for some they also serve to assess-- did I do better than my classmates or worse? Sort of like yearly Christmas letters only enhanced.

His 50th has my praise for the organizers setting it in a lovely, wooded location on one of the farms of an alumni. It was also pretty inexpensive at $20 a person which might have included the gifts (more on that later) name tags, rental tables, and definitely included the meal which had been catered and frankly was blah to bad (the restaurant should not have wanted their name attached to it as I don't imagine many who ate it would want to eat there afterward-- something for restaurant caterers to consider).

The setting outdoors more or less made up for the food. I also liked how the organizers said because of donations, from other alumni, anybody who could not afford the $20 would be covered privately. The attendees who I met were very nice, polite, some funny, interesting in the different ways they have spent these 50 years. The men Farm Boss had known as friends back then probably would still be friends if he lived nearer to them today.

Now understand that for me, as an appendage there with no shared history with these alumni, I was there more as an observer. Up until the planned events, I stuck to asking people a few questions about themselves, giving Farm Boss the freedom to mingle but really I was kind of just 'there' for wont of a better word.

Then came the planned 'entertainment'. First came a little test that they had all supposedly filled out the answers to these questions which were minutia that only someone obsessed with high school would possibly remember. Farm Boss said he knew only one of the answers (name of the hangout next to their high school) and didn't bother filling it out.  There was a prize for the person getting the most answers right but that didn't end up being many of them.

Then came a set of questions for prizes that were oriented toward who these people were today. As each one would come up, I'd think, nah, the organizers wouldn't really ask that and then they would. It did tweak my sense of humor-- to be able to laugh inside while maintaining a public decorum that was appropriate and didn't ridicule what other people needed to feel good about themselves where it hurts no one else.

Here's an example: Who still looks the most like they did in high school? Now is that a slam or a compliment? The question about who had most grandchildren seems innocuous unless you think how some cannot have children. Still by this age, they are probably used to those questions and let that roll off their backs. The answer was by the way 22. Seriously-- who has 22 grandchildren these days and how did they manage it? In addition that person already had two greats...

No surprise probably then that there was a question about who looked youngest. When five names had been called out (don't ask me how they were selected as it wasn't really looking youngest so far as I could tell-- but might be how cheerleaders used to be selected), as they stood there rather than stooping to an even lower level by voting for the very youngest, they let all five have a prize. (Yes, I think everybody does wonder at such an event about aging and how it shows up, but to bring it into the spotlight that just seemed wrong to me.)

Answering who still had the most hair probably only related to the men and it might have been won by the man who also had the youngest child (another question and bet nobody expected the answer to be nine years old-- not hard to see how that one happened).

And yeah, I gotta say, those questions were the total expectation I had had for people who wanted to travel back in time to the values they had had in high school.  At least they didn't ask who looked oldest. Saner minds might have prevailed.

It's easy to make fun of that kind of planned entertainment except the persons organizing something like this cannot find it easy, and they probably were trying to make it fun for everybody. Putting it together does deserve praise as if it depended on someone like me (who could plan a big event and has but would not choose to for a high school reunion) nothing would happen. 

Some to whom I chatted, when I asked, told me they had been to every reunion ever offered and by some I mean there were a sprinkling of partners like me who had come to offer support or maybe defend their ground, whoever knows why anybody comes to something like that. A fair number of graduates had come alone but that might relate more to the distance from which they had traveled like Switzerland and the cost of airfare.

I felt I would like three things about doing it and each was fulfilled. One-- sometimes you just need to go outside your comfort zone and a big gathering of people, who are coming together based on who they were as youths, has to be one of those for me. Two-- I felt that I would enjoy photographing it. Three-- I was interested in what a large gathering (over 70 returning alumni) of people mostly the age of 68 would look. Now that's the part that is most interesting to me on several levels, and after I got started thinking about it, I decided it deserved its own blog.


Annie said...

Interesting. I've never been to a high school reunion, mostly because I didn't ever want to run into most of those people again. I've mellowed somewhat on that. Did Farm Boss enjoy the event? I take it your own reunion is coming up? Be interesting to hear your reactions to that one too.

Paul said...

I have never attended a high school reunion either. However, it could be fun...

Rain said...

Yes, my reunion comes in September. I think Farm Boss enjoyed it to a degree anyway and was glad he went as he had some high school friends he was glad to see again. I have about 80 photos that I took which I put on a Picasa site and will give the link in my next blog on the topic. I don't know if I'll write about mine or not as maybe it'll be like this one. I haven't heard anything about a question time for mine but they did want photos from high school years to be sent and they'd use them in a slide show. I have zero. Absolutely took none at high school or with friends during those years which I find weird. Just the photos in the annual are all that prove I was even there but it wasn't that I did nothing as I was in groups, dated, went to dances, etc. Just no camera. It was a time though of less access to cameras although I had a Brownie Hawkeye but it mostly took photos of my cats or the farm. The only one of me wouldn't work for their slideshow as it was dressed in a formal for one of the proms and with my collie, not my date ;)

wally said...

My 50th reunion is two years away and they are getting people signed up for it. Ordinarily I would not be interested, but I have been corresponding with several people that I reconnected with through Classmates.com. One of them I didn't know in school but we've become friends through the internet. So, it may be worth enduring the bother of a reunion just to be able to visit with two or three people.

Rain said...

It did seem like a milestone year to do it and Farm Boss definitely enjoyed talking to some of his old friends only a few of had he seen at all since high school.

Taradharma said...

Having not attended a regular high school reunion since the 5th (really, is that enough time gone by?) I actually organized a reunion this summer for a group of us who founded an alternative high school. There were but 13 of us who made it, but it was worthwhile all the same.

We were the outcasts, the hippies, the nerds. Our reunion reflected that. We were mostly still on that off-beat trajectory -- living our lives much that same as we had envisioned them 36 years ago. It was grand to catch up, to hear of children, grandchildren, and artistic pursuits. A sharing circle brought some harsh truths to the group, in that life had not been kind to a few among us. Bravely shared stories, accepted and validated by the gathering.

I'd do this one again, in maybe 5 years, and from the feedback I received, others would as well.

My hat's off to you for attending Farm Boss' gathering-- not an easy thing to be the outsider.

Rain said...

I think small gatherings have more chance to be meaningful. And if people have kept it up all along, that helps also. There were those at this one who had done that, kept an ongoing community who knew each other all those years. I can see the value of that. In this one, they also took photos of the grade school graduates (three different ones came together to that one high school) who had basically been together then their whole lives.

Parapluie said...

I want to go to my 50th reunion because I know others have come from far away with expectations and I do not want to let them down. I know some who I would like to see will not be there. But that is ok because our reunion organizers provided an e-mail option and I have made contact with a few friends I want to contact. It is sufficient and fullfilling to me to just say "Hi and that I care about them still." About the ones who are engaging in the arts, I like to know there might be a network for us. I like to know at our stage in life what the arts mean to them and what they are doing with it.

Mary Lou said...

I live in the town I graduated from, and I did not even get INVITED to my 45th reunion! It isnt like I am hiding or the town is that big either, I just think they did not try really hard. Does not bother me. THe ones I really care about I see. THe rest.....eh!

joared said...

I've never attended a class reunion of any sort, primarily because I didn't remain in the community -- in fact, had moved many States away. The attraction to fly back to attend on such an occasion wasn't strong enough, or I couldn't afford to, plus I hadn't sustained contact with anyone in our very small class of 40.

I think people who remain in the community, or nearby enough to conveniently commute, may have more ties with one another and, perhaps, feel a greater sense of connection. I doubt that all would be trying to recapture those years, but, sadly for some maybe it would have been the highlight of their life. I would be curious about how we'd changed and how we might have remained the same -- at least that's what I would be thinking about if I ever met old classmates again. It certainly would be an opportunity to see how we aged differently, but not from a judgmental, critical, or competitive comparative point of view. I guess like much in life, our attitude determines what we gain from the experience despite what others attitudes might be.

In fact, one such classmate did contact me last year. Though we haven't gotten together, we have talked a few times. It's been interesting to see how our memories of various experiences differ and others are the same.

I think it might have been fun to attend a reunion a few times over the years. I wouldn't care about the old school issues or competitions, and wouldn't be bothered by any there who might have such a focus -- likely chuckling to myself inside that such attitudes could still prevail after all these years.

I enjoy long newsy holiday letters, overlooking any of those who might have a tendency to excessively embellish. I think at the seasonal holidays/New Years people intentionally try to write only positive information, and are reluctant to include relating all the negatives that have happened throughout their year, including describing their physical ailments -- or save the negatives for only those closest in separate comments. I think most newsletter writers (at least those I receive) believe that the recipient cares enough about them to be interested in hearing about their accomplishments, what has made them happy, the pride they feel in other family members -- just as they do about those who may write them -- otherwise, why stay in touch? I'd far rather have a greeting with a letter, than a card with just a short sentiment and signature.

I just remembered now, that I did attend one of my husband's reunions shortly after we married. I enjoyed meeting some with whom he had occasional contact that I'd never met, listening to their stories about him long before I ever knew him. He was enough older we would never have dated in high school. Unfortunately, his high school sweetheart wasn't there, but I would like to have met her, too.

allan dews said...

for me , high school reunion is a scary one.. i ever go .... it remind me of a very shame story :-(

Fran aka Redondowriter said...

I'm glad you had a good time at Farm Boss's reunion; I already wrote to you about my own class having yearly reunions since our 50th. Also, part of my professional work assignment is going to the reunions of my school's alumni to cover them archivally. I always enjoy seeing people's responses to one another. I hope your own September reunion is as enjoyable as your husband's was. I'm sure you will be voted "looking youngest" at your own reunion.

Rain said...

Boy, I hope not on the whose youngest or looks the most like they did. I hope mine won't ask that question or any of those that were at this one. I almost wrote to the committee saying I hope that won't be one of their ideas of entertaining lol Then my own better angel said that would be a mistake and I'd just have to let be what would be. But golly I think it's an awful thing to do