Thursday, October 17, 2019

Fifty Years.


50 Years. A half century.


Fifty years ago, and every year since, Sexton High School and thousands of other schools set onto the world a new generation of eighteen year-olds with big dreams and, in some cases, with big attitudes. And yet, though they would fight you tooth and nail on this – those graduates are still children wrapped in young adult bodies, now legally of age.

Can you find me? It took me a long time!

To be honest, I was pretty uncertain about attending my high school reunion, which is probably one of those life-passage things we must all do in time. Burying our parents. Going to really lousy middle school band concerts and trying to find something nice to say later. Choosing a career path – or two or three. Looking through tears at a doctor and asking, “Well, what’s the next step?”

Rites of passage.

I liked high school. My graduating class had 460 kids. I was a drama and choir geek and one of the pretty smart kids. Not the smartest, but smart enough. My circle of friends was older than I and younger by two years either way. Very few of my closest friends were in my class and of those who were at least two had died.


(Eighty-nine of my class members had died – close to twenty percent -- including my friend and neighbor, Mary, who was my freshman college roommate. She died in a plane crash before we even finished college.) 


And yes, I was Facebook friends with a few, not many. But then, what does that mean, anyway?

Give me three reasons why I should go spend a fair amount of time with people I didn’t really know then, much less now? 

Well, here you go. I lived in the same town as my school. Really, it wasn’t like having to fly across country, as so many would.  Second, a woman I had come to know from the class in later years far better than in high school – Diane S. – was the one of the organizers. I knew they had worked hard on this event and I wanted to support it -- and her.

I'm lucky to run into Diane at lots of Friends of Theatre gigs!

And then she told me the “other Diane” – Diane M. – was coming from Texas. She was a theatre geek too. My people. I hadn’t seen her since high school but I always liked her and thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to catch up.” That was the deal-breaker.


Like many reunions, ours included a meet-and-greet, which I skipped, and a tour of the high school, which I didn’t. I wrote about the school HERE.  Wandering through there were memories and conversations about Miss Ludwig or Mr. Angus, where we met for homeroom and which of the recently painted lockers had been ours. If you read the previous post, you know that Drama Diane and I slipped away from the group to go in the basement of the auditorium where sets were built and actors dressed for our shows. It was a good afternoon.

And, that afternoon made me feel a bit less nervous about the evening dinner. I’d seen a few people I remembered well and looked forward to seeing them again. 


It was an evening as one would expect, one many have already experienced. A buffet (vegetarian options available – did we even think about that when we were 18?). Cash bar with adequate house wine or beer. A caricaturist, displays with photos and memorabilia. The committee had done a lovely job.

Ken decided he'd copy his caricature for his little boys to color!

We circled around, touched base with each other. One friend who’d attended the tour that morning didn’t come. She was running a marathon the next day. Another had become a very successful artist and we talked about his painting workshops in a few weeks (I planned to go until I realized I had a doc appointment that day I couldn't change.) A girl I first met in sixth grade was an elegant woman who owned a resort in Northern Michigan (and yes, I will probably detour on one of my up-north road trips to have lunch with her.) 

Google Mark Mehaffey for a look at his fabulous art. Carole Benson Dennings now has a resort in Northern Michigan.

A fellow I’d never talked with in high school (because he was one of the popular kids and – gasp! – on the football team) had a career restoring historic barns. I even saw the guy who was my first real date when we went to a concert by the Association. My friend Jean from church choir was a professional storyteller.

Tom and I went to see the Association when we were sophomores or more likely juniors -- my first real date. He's retired now. Jean is a professional storyteller and librarian; I've known her since church choir in sixth grade!

 People came up to me, “I wondered if you would be here!”  (I had no idea who they were then or now.) “I used to see you on television all the time. Have you retired?” (Who are you?)

And then I might just look at a name tag – each with our senior photo and name in large print (thank you!) – and realize just who that was.  (And sometimes, not!)


They'd collected lots of memorabilia, like this program from "Diary of Anne Frank."


Boy, did that one bring back memories!


It was all good – and while I took off long before the last guests left, I was glad I’d attended. And, I was especially looking forward to brunch the next day with the Two Dianes and Tom, who had been in my home room.

The next morning we gathered at a local restaurant, one where we could stay awhile and catch up. I was FB friends with all three – and yet we all knew so little about each others’ lives. Not just jobs or family, but our lives, our thoughts.

We talked for close to three hours and not really about school, apart from how that defined us at one age and yet how far we were from the definition. The Drama Geeks. The Smart Ones. The Jocks. The Band Kids. A dozen labels that fit – and that didn’t.


 Diane S., the class valedictorian, said guys came up to her at the reunion and said, “I always thought you were so cute – I had a crush on you.” “Why didn’t they tell me at the time?” she wondered.

Tom said he wasn’t in the photo of us all in our caps and gowns – he didn’t graduate with us. He was angry all through school for a lot of very good reasons, but not ones we knew about back then. He took it out on the football field. And maybe a few teachers. I had no idea.


I was the one who could only feel comfortable on stage and playing a part – because only a few people could see the real me. It took me a long time to be comfortable speaking in class or to someone I might have admired or even had a crush on.

Barefoot in the Park

Drama Diane, now in publishing, said she took philosophy as an elective. “They don’t teach that anymore. Why?”

We agreed, we could all have used a little more philosophical and critical thinking in high school and those years that followed. I suspect today's kids could use it too.

We graduated at the height of the Vietnam war, a war that took my high school boyfriend into the Air Force. That same war took me to war protests on campus. The relationship didn’t end well. I wish he’d come to the reunion. I would have apologized to him for not understanding what he experienced. 

I wish Ron had come to the reunion. I know more now about what he must have experienced in Vietnam.

After high school, we learned to live independently. For many of us, it was first in a dorm, then an apartment, then either on our own or in a relationship. We learned how to be responsible and the consequences when we weren’t. We went our own ways – sometimes staying in the fields we chose at 18 and more often, evolving into other interests and passions.

I think we became even more real to one another than we may have been before. I know so much more about all these people than I did – not just what they do, but who they are. The one who surprised me most was Tom, the one I had known least. The angry one who didn’t graduate. But he wasn't angry now. And boy, was he smart. Wise. The one who had learned the power of negotiation and compromise as a union steward and the importance of standing up for what was right.

From all this I have discovered something very important about attending a class reunion, a lesson I am happy to share with anyone who will listen. It isn’t just about getting to catch up with the people you knew, but to discover those you didn’t know so well. In revisiting those times gone by, we were all afforded the opportunity to step back and look at ourselves and how we’ve evolved in those 50 years. Wins. Losses. Life. It shows on our faces, our hips, our words, our thoughts.


And what’s ahead? For all of us, there will be the challenges of age. I think all four of us had health issues we didn't talk about at breakfast and no doubt, more to come as we age. We may discover new interests or work as long as possible. We will see our peers die and others thrive in retirement.

As for Tom? He said he wanted to be a lumberjack and saw wood and enjoy doing that with his sons.  


I hope he does.

Sharing with:    Best of the Weekend     /     Let's Add Sprinkles

51 comments:

laurie said...

You bring us the best posts , full of fun , love and everyday life , this was beautiful,

Valerie-Jael said...

Wow, a real blast from the past. I have never been to any reunions from school or university, somehow never got round to it. I went to a school with just 300 students altogether, and a small university college with about the same amount of people. Glad you were able to touch base with some people you knew. Hugs, Valerie

Linda said...

Are you almost dead center? I thought I would be able to recognize your smile ANYWHERE, but I'm not seeing it so I thought may you were the one in front of the the tall kid in the middle.

Fun fun fun post.

Misadventures of Widowhood said...

You sure had a huge class! What an undertaking to organize a reunion of that size. I was involved in reunion committee for my husband's class of 70 and that was chore, finding everyone.

I love that you had such a great time and that you shared the highlights with us.

bobbie said...

I'm glad you had such a good time! I haven't been to any of my HS reunions, and don't plan to go to any in the future.

Penny from Enjoying The Simple Things said...

I am glad you had a nice time. I have been to my 10th and 20th. My 50th will be in 2021. I am not sure if I will attend.

Iris Flavia said...

I never went to a school reunion but over time when visiting my home town I met or saw some I went to school with, it was... distressing. One´d taken drugs and looked like 70+ even. But he recognized me (my Brother had to tell me who that man was, we "met" in my Brother´s shop by accident).

Oh, how sad so many of your class mates are gone! Especially your room mate, how very sad!
Glad you had some fun moments there :-)

In 9th grade we were shown a docu on how mass poultry was produced and I could not eat meat for a while after that.

Oh, it must be kinda awkward to meet your first real love!

Cuuute pic of you on the tag!

Oh, wow, Vietnam, what a useless waste of lives that war was. It sure destoyed many a survivor´s mind.

This was a beautiful post. I kinda regret I never haven´t gone to any reunion now, but actually only in elementary school we were a union. Later it was one against the other, mostly.

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Jeanie, I've never been to any of my high school reunions. A woman was just telling me the other day that she was going to be attending her husband's. This reminded me to follow up with her about the experience. You certainly had a wonderful experience! But then YOU would! :-)

eileeninmd said...

Hello Jeanie,

I am glad you had such a nice time at your reunion. I enjoyed seeing you as a high school student. I went to the first two or three of my reunions. It is sad, two of your closest friends have died. It is nice to re-connect or make new friends. I enjoyed the post and photos.
Wishing you a great day and weekend ahead!

David M. Gascoigne, said...

Bravo to you for going. It was obviously a positive experience for you. As I mentioned earlier, it is not something I have ever done, but Miriam has been to a reunion and said she was astounded at the number of people she had no recollection of at all. The most famous student from Elmira District High School was Malcolm Gladwell and he was present at the last reunion. She didn't go! Actually she still has lunch regularly with friends from high school. It is quite amazing really, when people move all over the world, that so many still live in the same area.

R's Rue said...

Beautiful.

Red Rose Alley said...

Wow, 50 year reunion, how fun! I can't believe that many people have passed away in your high school. That's so sad. I'm so sorry to hear about your good friend, Mary. Yes, I think I found you in the picture - fourth row in the middle? I didn't know you were in Drama. Loved looking at all these treasured photos, Jeanie. I was just wondering lately when our next reunion will be?

~Sheri

60 Something said...

Jeanie, Thank you so much for this post and visit down memory lane. The pics are wonderful. One in particular brought tears to my eyes.

William Kendall said...

I don't think I will ever go to a reunion.

The most famous alumni from my high school was the astronaut Chris Hadfield.

Lynne said...

Very true Jeanie . . .
It is great fun to reconnect with the old well known classmates
yet connecting with classmates we didn’t know during high school days
is really great fun too.
I felt that during my latest reunion, wondering what was with me to not
know more about each/all of my classmates.
Happy you attended and have plans of reconnecting with some of them, even more!

Jenny Woolf said...

A really interesting post, Jeanie. I wonder what it was like to spend so many years at the same school. I went to so many schools, (most of them when I was under 11 years old,) because my dad was in the army and we moved around so much. I've stayed in touch with a couple of people from my teen years, and occasionally hear of or even meet people I knew from secondary school and college. I am usually struck by how different they were when they grew up to how they had seemed me when I was young. The shy ones often ended up doing amazing things, travelling far and wide or holding down fascinating jobs. The witty creative ones, the super popular ones or those who seemed as if they would go far, often seemed to end up with routine jobs. The most surprising was the most unpopular girl in the class who turned up 1000 miles away from where we had gone to school. We were both 19 and from being massively unpopular and picked on by everyone, she was now VERY popular - with a man about 40 years older than her who was thrilled to bits to have her on his arm and so proud of her. And you know what, she was happier than I have ever seen her - really, really happy. Life does throw some surprises! :)

AnnMarie aka Vintage Junkie aka NaNa said...

I'm glad it turned out so well! You are brave to go and now you have gained some new friends. I haven't gone to any high school reunions and don't ever plan to! I was a transplant from another school so I never felt I fit in with the new crowd. I don't need to relive that. My sister still hangs out with her high school friends from 1972!

Prims By The Water said...

Glad you had a great class reunion! I never attended any of mine. The first couple of years they were held at a very expensive venue. Looks like everyone had fun too! Janice

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

Jeanie, I'm so glad you had a great reunion. It's kind of sobering to realize so many folks we knew way back when have passed away. You haven't changed a bit from high school. I could pick you out anywhere in your photos!

Sketchbook Wandering said...

HI Jeanie, I've been away from Blogspot...busy with my art and other things, then a back injury from doing the art with bad ergonomics...I read this post with great focus and fascination...I wish I'd gone to mine, and wish I'd gone to the 40th, where people were asking about me. High school was a hard time for me. I didn't know it, but it was also a time of great evolution...I wish I knew then what I know now, as they say...
My 50th was just last year...
I read your story with interest because you wrote it so very well and I was captivated by it, but also with a vicarious pleasure. So thanks! I will post soon...

Sandra Cox said...

Look at you. Weren't you a cutie. And still are:)
My graduating class had 32 people in:) I also had a boyfriend that ended up in the air force.
Attending your reunion with you was fun:)

My name is Erika. said...

I haven't been to a class reunion for 25 years. I don't even know if they are still having them for my class. But I bet it is really fascinating to catch up with people and see what they have done for last many years. And to rekindle acquaintances and friendships. Was there anyone there you wondered about and then learned they were more or less successful than you thought? And I don't mean money successful, I mean just had a good life or not a good life. The not so good life would be sad though. Thanks for sharing. You got me thinking of a few people from high school I really would like to touch base with again. Hugs-Erika

Sami said...

So glad you had such a great school reunion Jeanie. I've never been to a school reunion, we had a very small class in yer 12 of just 20 people and I'm facebook friends with about 7 or 8 of them, but we are scattered around the world, so as you say all we know about each other if of things we post, nothing too personal.

Evi Erlinda said...

Wow, back to a half century ago, wonderful time, Jeanne! Getting together with old friends and retrieving old memories are such a lot fun.
Even you said not the smartest one in the school, your smart is forever.

Thanks for sharing a nice story.

Pamela said...

Great post! I've never been to a HS reunion. Living so far away, I probably never will. I enjoyed your 50th.

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

Hmmmm, your post really got me thinking, Jeanie. I'm very much out of touch with highschool friends. I made the decision years ago to not be part of Facebook and other forms of social media which is where, I suppose, people find out about others from their past. I don't even know if there has been a reunion. Maybe it would be nice to do a quick catch - up. -Jenn

La Table De Nana said...

Well done! Honest..sincere..interesting.
I would have never known this event was not something you were super excited about!Turned out perfectly!
Fab caricature..beautiful hotel and spa..

And all the gone ones:( That's a lot!
Love the teenage pics of you!

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I was just talking with my foodie friend Sally the other day about high school. I'm so glad you shared this post. You came from a much larger town than I. Your high school graduating class was larger than my entire high school. In fact, we had the LARGEST class ever with 69 graduating, and one who was killed our junior year. It sure brings back a lot of memories and I know you were glad you went once you got there. This was a really fun read, a great way to remember what you did in high school and your experience in drama. Great post about looking back.

Joanne Huffman said...

Glad it was such a good experience for you.

Pom Pom said...

Good for you, Jeanie! It looks fun! You were a cutie pie then and you're a cutie pie now!

Nikki-ann said...

Thanks for sharing your high school reunion with us. I'm not sure I'd attend one if we had one... I didn't really enjoy high school!

Rita C at Panoply said...

THis was great. Reunions are fun for reminiscing and catching up on current. Glad you could go and share.

shoreacres said...

I've never been to a high school reunion, and can't imagine going to one. Of course, high school wasn't my favorite time in life, despite some wonderful experiences. It's good that you were able to attend yours, and enjoyed it.

Judy CGI said...

Beautifully written. Seems I was busy most of the weekend and never really got to sit and talk with others. It was a great reunion and so much fun to see people from the past. It was fun working with everyone on the committee. We had a lot of laughs.

Arti said...

What an amazing post! Memorable pics and experience! For us as readers too. I'm so excited for you and very impressed by that photo of one 'Jeanne Croope'. :)

Joyful said...

A nice walk down memory lane. I never went to any of my high school reunions because I was only at one school for a year and a half and at another for a year. I really didn't know many people and I haven't kept in touch with the few I did know.

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, this is an excellent post about feelings and emotions that we all experienced in high school. I meet up with a few ladies from school every three or four months for lunch. Some of us started first grade together, and some were in my graduating class. It has been an eye-opener. Those things that defined us then, don’t any more. Thank you for sharing.

The French Hutch said...

Arn't they always emotional. Loved seeing your photos, so many memories surfacing. I'm sure you enjoyed every minute and glad you decided to attend. Thanks for sharing Jeanie........

judee said...

Sounds like a well planned reunion that was exciting and meaningful. I remember my father's 50th reunion , he seemed so old and very few were left to attend- Now, I just had my 50th and we all look young by comparison~~ 70 is the new 50!!!

Mike@Bit About Britain said...

That was a very thoughtful, and thought-provoking, post, Jeanie. Your writing drew me in. There are dangers in going back, it was such a careless, carefree time at 18...

Sandra at Maison De Jardin said...

Jeanie, I thoroughly enjoyed every word of this post. Especially the part about discovering those you didn't know so well. Our lives can certainly take different roads with twists and turns. It was truly a beautiful post and you are a talented writer.

Lovely day and weekend to you, Jeanie.

Judy at GoldCountryCottage said...

Jeanie, I loved this post. I'm so glad you went and were able to connect with old friends. Jerry and I have been out of high school now for 62 years. We have gone to every reunion as we both graduated from the same class so we knew all the same people. We also have a class website that has everyone's e-mails so we keep in touch that way mostly. It is always a lot of fun but sometimes a shock as we never change but everyone else does! Haha..Happy Weekend..xxoJudy

Unknown said...

Jeanie, you always have such a deep and reflective perspective on whatever you write about and this is no different. I have always thought that it would be fun to open up our reunions to those that were students in the previous and following years because so many of our friends were in those classes. I know that's not really feasible, but it would be nice. You would be one of the people I would have loved to see. I teared up a little seeing the photo of sweet Mary who was tragically taken at such a young age. Such a loss to the world. Jeanie, you are such a gifted writer. Please don't ever stop sharing your thoughts. ❤️

Delores

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Gosh this was an insightful and wise post. Not surprising since you share a lot of insight in your posts. It made me think. I have yet to attend a reunion and I don't know that I will. I had such a small class - 28 people. There weren't enough people to allow for much diversity... I was definitely the nerdy one, the band geek, the drama kid, etc. I am friends with some of the people I went to high school with on facebook. We've all pretty much matured in the (20) years since we graduated. But that time is still such a time of pain for me. I almost shudder to think of going back and spending an evening with my classmates. I know they would be kinder to me but I was such an outsider then, I can't see myself feeling like anything but an outsider among them. And that's ok. I found my people in college and after college. Phil had a totally different high school experience. He also had a large class of 400+, maybe even 500. He is still friends with his core group of HS friends and they are my friends now. They are great people so I can see why he has great memories of high school. He doesn't know that he will go to his 20th reunion next year, though. He said he'd rather just get together with his core group since we have a hard time getting together in the first place. But we'll see what he decides.

On a side note, we've been watching the Ken Burns documentary on Vietnam. Gosh it is hard to watch so I can't imagine living through that era. We are on the 2nd to final episode which focuses more on the protests in the US. It was really hard to watch the part that covered the shootings at Kent State (it's hard to watch all of it, really, but watching the national guard shoot at protesting students is unbelievable). My mom does talk about this time and how scary it was. What's hardest, I think, is how much the American people were lied to. That war just seems completely senseless and we knew for so long that we weren't going to 'win' but yet we kept sending our young men over there. Phil's family has been touched by the war as his aunt was a nurse in Vietnam and his uncle was in the military. His uncle went on to become a 2-star general. But his aunt, sadly, committed suicide in the early 1980s. They think it was likely due to undiagnosed PTSD. I think she was so haunted by what she saw in Vietnam - I don't blame her. They just didn't know about PTSD back then. This was Phil's mom's only sibling and they were so close so it was so very hard on his mom. :(

Amy at Ms. Toody Goo Shoes said...

A great post, Jeanie, that I can relate to on many levels. You've nailed the joys and heart ache of high school! I'm glad you were happy with your decision to go, just as I was glad to mine. I didn't go to the 10th, wouldn't have gone to the 20th if a friend hadn't called and talked me into it. I had such a great time, I went to the 30th. By the 40th, there were so many of us who had re-connected on Facebook, and so many people came from all over for that one that hadn't come to previous ones. It was fantastic! Based on that, the reunion committee decided to do a 45th. I didn't go. I hate to say this, but by that time, political differences over the last couple of years had caused a huge rift in group. It remains to be seen what I'll do for the 50th.

Tracy said...

Wow...rite of passage for sure! What a huge graduating class you came from. It's brave to go to a high school reunion, I think! What a nice party. Glad you had a good time, Jeanie! I've not been to one of mine. Sadly, I've lost all contact with former school friends, so I probably don't think about it a lot. And when you live far away, people do tend to forget about you... haha! ((HUGS))

Lowcarb team member said...

I am so pleased that you had such a good time, thanks for sharing it with us here.

All the best Jan

Marilyn Miller said...

Now that is a lovely review of your reunion. I am wondering if mine would go as well if I had gone. Maybe next year! I love your memories.

Karen said...

I loved my HS reunion. In addition to being my year anniversary, it was also the 150th anniversary of my school! My youngest daughter accompanied me. She was the 4th generation FEMALE in our family to graduate from that school!

I remember spending a lot of time protesting the Vietnam war and racial inequality. (You know I am Canadian). My father was a WWII veteran. He never told me not to protest, but we didn't discuss it. When he was close to the end of his life, he told me how much he hated war and thought it was time we got out of that business. Sorry, getting off track. As a Canadian, I am so happy none of the boys in my class had to go to that war. One of my Canadian cousins did volunteer to go with the American marines though.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Looks there was a lot of catching up being done at your reunion, Jeanie. I only went to my 25th and while it fun to see former classmates, none kept in touch afterwards, despite saying they would. Glad you and your friends have done so.

Katie Mansfield said...

I'm so glad you went. I enjoyed reading all about it.

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