There was definitely a selection factor for the people who attended my 50th high school reunion in suburban New York a few weeks ago. We were the ones who weren’t dead.
I confess I was seriously ambivalent about attending this event. But in the end, I was glad I went, despite, as I’ve previously written, the nightmare air travel to get there. Fortunately, there was one shining light in the airline experience: flying from Martha’s Vineyard (where we were visiting friends ahead of time) to Armonk, NY (closest airport to my hometown) in an 8-seater Cape Air plane. When I tried to go through the TSA line at the Martha’s Vineyard airport, I was informed that I didn’t need to as mine was a “TSA-unsecured flight.” There’s really such a thing? But then, there’s probably only minimal terrorist activity going on between Martha’s Vineyard and Armonk.
When they announced my flight, the Cape Air agent told me to go out the side door, walk past the playground, and hang out by the chain link fence where someone would come get me and my two fellow passengers. After hours being tortured at O’Hare en route, this was truly refreshing.
Olof, meanwhile, had decided that he would rather excise his spleen with a rusty cheese knife than go to my reunion (his own, in Walnut Creek, is in September) and decided that it would be an upper instead to tour the battlefields in Gettysburg. Fortunately for me, the huge storm that was about to hit the Northeast held off long enough for my tiny toy plane to fly. While a deluge didn’t particularly impact my reunion, Olof observed that the Gettysburg battlefields probably show better when not under water.
When I arrived at my Armonk motel (my Draconianally-zoned home town doesn’t have any hostelries), friends had already set up a bar as a precursor to our first evening plans, which was to eschew the reunion’s official Friday night event: walking in the graduation ceremonies followed by dinner at the school cafeteria. When I heard that my classmates had voted for this event, I could wonder: were they all on food stamps? Further, I thought this was a rotten thing to do to the new graduates: like, if they work hard their whole lives and don't die of cancer, WE'RE what they have to look forward to? Third, I avoided that cafeteria like the plague in high school so flying across the country to eat there wasn’t really high on my list. As it was later disclosed, the vote for the graduation/cafeteria event was 12-10, the other 150 classmates having failed to vote one way or the other.
The big event was the Saturday night “dinner dance” at the local country club whose heyday was in the 1940s. We had a DJ who played “our” music, including the much beloved YMCA which was technically released 13 years after we graduated but without which no oldies high school reunion would be complete.
Despite being a small town, we actually have one really famous classmate, a Pulitzer prize-winning humor columnist and author of some 20 books who has written about our high school frequently. In fact, his latest book has an entire chapter about his yearbook photo in which he describes his hair as resembling a “malnourished weasel.” He and his wife came to the dinner dance with their 15-year-old daughter who bore up bravely but could be seen clicking away on her phone. I would have killed to see the hashtags: #geezerfest #worstnightofmylife #sincewhenisthismusic #Illneverbebadagain #oyveyYMCA?
All of us being 67-68, there was, not surprisingly, a lot of health and diet talk. One of my classmates appeared to have been dropped into a vat of new age elixir: everything was “meant to be,” all choices were OK. You just wanted to smack her. But what was truly lovely was how unfiltered conversations were. Maybe it’s because we’ve finally dropped all the pretenses. Or maybe we’re borderline senile. Regardless, the dialog was all refreshingly honest. Then again, maybe in high school you don’t want conversations to be that honest.
It being a reunion, there were prizes: most marriages (6); most grandchildren (8), longest marriage (46 years). As with the 40th, I got the award for coming the farthest although not before a challenge by somebody from Washington state was settled by MapQuest on our iPhones.
Alas not present: the alphabetical creepo who sat next to me in homeroom. I was secretary of the Organ Club (music, not donors) so when club announcements were read, he loved lean in and leer, “Hey, Inga, want to play MY organ?” I had so many rejoinders ready. Dang.