ON MY MIND: Strange, wonderful . . . and old!

On My Mind | Maureen Burns

I just had my 50 year high school reunion. So now all of you younguns might want to quit reading.

We had about 160 in my class. Oh, now is a good time to say I should have been in the class behind me. I skipped a grade. That didn’t matter before, but now it seems important to be sure you know I didn’t really belong there. I technically was way too young.

About a quarter of our class had died. That seemed amazing to me. As I chatted with folks, many had lost spouses.

I helped with registration and when they came in, en masse, it was unbelievable how old they looked — most of them, that is. I asked others about their 50 year reunions. Gene Weeks said, “The years had not been kind to many of them.” What a kind way to put it.

Char Lothian said, “I didn’t go. I thought there would be too many old people there.”

The chair of our reunion committee emailed me and said, “It is only 12 days away.” I emailed back, “Can I lose 50 pounds in 12 days?”

He promptly returned, “Can I grow a head of hair in 12 days?” I loved that!

Gene Weeks also said that one he didn’t recognize, looked at him and asked, “Which nursing home do you live at?” Gene summed up his experience with, “I don’t think I’ll go again.”

Most of the ones I really wanted to see didn’t come.

Bonnie Braman thought hers “was grand.” She said after their 30th they decided to meet for dinner once a month and they have been doing that for more than 20 years.

She also said, “Most looked amazingly young, but there were some great grandparents there.”

Dan in Muskegon said, “There were a lot of mature people with great life experiences to share. A good thing we had name tags with school pictures, or we wouldn’t have known who some of the people were! Amazing how they have stayed the same in our mind’s eye. Then WHAM, reality hits, and you’re face to face with an old person that you don’t know. But there is still a glimmer of how you remember them, maybe a facial expression or mannerism that is once again familiar, and you’re sharing the old times with an old friend. Yeah, it was the best!”

Harriette Cook is still in touch with many classmates. “I would always go. I have loved all of the reunions.” Her husband noted how the non-classmates got to chat at length while the classmates ran around from person to person saying basically the same surface thing.

Lucky for my husband, mine was at The Tractor Museum in Coopersville, so he got to wander around looking at tractors.

Ann in Montrose said, “I was amazed how young they looked and how quickly we re-bonded. What divided us 50 years ago didn’t matter anymore. We felt closer than we had in high school.” Her class had 44 in it.

Tom Pridgeon said, “I couldn’t believe how old everyone was. One of my best high school friends and I had a falling out about 15 years ago over a political issue. I tried several times to reconnect, but he wouldn’t respond.”

“At the 50th reunion, his wife got us together for a photo. She said, ‘Act like you like each other.’ We then were able to renew our friendship and now get together once a year to golf and have dinner. Thank God for 50th reunions.”

What I found at my reunion was that people were pretty much as they had been. Most stayed in that area and life went on . . . and on.

In preparation for this big event, I got out my ol’ yearbook and read the writings, looked at the faces I didn’t remember and thought back. I laughed out loud at what my friend Jim wrote: “Ours has been a strange and wonderful relationship. You’re strange and I’m wonderful.”

When I saw Jim at the reunion, we had some good laughs over that. He remained crazy, too. He told me he had been divorced after a long illness. I said, “Oh, what was it?”

“Oh, she got sick of me and it just kept getting worse,” he replied.

So, just like our relationship, 50 year reunions are strange and wonderful. For a few hours you revisit your history. It seems strange that everyone is old. And then you focus on the wonderful part and have a good time.

Maureen Burns, a Greenville resident, is a professional speaker and author. Her e-mail address is maureenburns@maureenburns.com.

  1. Alvina says
    19 Aug 14 at 7:32pm

    Good article,MO….glad you didn’t name us “old” classmates!!!

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