GratiTuesday: A Gathering of Friends

Last Saturday, I attended a mini-reunion for my high school class. Since it wasn’t one of the big ones (those that end with a “0”), the event was low-key and casual. I almost didn’t go because the high school friends I maintain regular contact with (real contact, not occasional Facebook posts) were either out of town or had other plans for the evening. Since I’m not one of those who can walk into a crowd and instantly feel at ease, I questioned whether I’d enjoy myself. Our graduating class was large – around 600 – so (I told myself) the chances were pretty good that I wouldn’t remember many of the people.

After spending some time trying to talk myself out of going, I decided – with my husband’s encouragement – that I’d at least make an appearance. If after a short amount of time I wasn’t enjoying myself, I could leave. That’s one of the nice things about being an adult that I sometimes forget… I’m the boss of me.

When I entered the venue, my first reaction was that there were a bunch of old people there. Lots of grey hair and a few extra pounds padding quite a few mid-sections. Yikes! where were my classmates? Had I walked into the wrong event? After a moment’s hesitation, I convinced myself to take one lap around the room. If I didn’t see anyone I knew, I would keep on walking out the door and back to my car.

Fortunately, before I made a complete loop, I saw a familiar face… then another … then another. Those old people I saw at first? The years started to melt away and I began to see my high school friends. Sometimes I needed to glance several times at their name tags to be sure, but they were there.

Unlike past reunions, where there were a lot of “what do you do?” questions, followed by “how many kids do you have?” most of the conversations the other night centered around hobbies, travel, and day-to-day interests. Many of us had retired or were close and, for the most part, kids had grown and flown. The people I talked to were in relatively good health, they were active and engaged, and they were focused on enjoying life.

Not a great picture but the only one I have of the evening.

I heard the word grateful spoken many times that evening. Grateful for friendships that have lasted over many years, grateful for our families, grateful for our health, grateful for the experiences we’ve enjoyed since high school, and grateful that we decided to attend this gathering of our friends.

As is often done at reunions, a list of names of classmates no longer with us was read. Each time, the list grows longer, and, in this case, two names had been added very recently. It was a sobering reminder of how precious life is and how important it is to hold our friends and our loved ones close. After the names were read, the mood shifted just a bit. I think many of us found ourselves listening a little closer to our friends’ stories, hugging them a little harder, and, most of all, hoping that we will see everyone again at our next reunion.

Author: RetirementallyChallenged.com

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

76 thoughts on “GratiTuesday: A Gathering of Friends”

  1. I had a similar experience. We had so much fun at our “official” reunion, we decided to aim for making it an annual event.
    Congratulations on talking yourself into going!

    1. I often find that if I can talk myself into doing something that I am initially reluctant to do (assuming we are talking about positive, legal stuff 🙂 ), I end up glad that I made the effort. That’s great that you are meeting annually… I think that’s fairly unusual. Did you have a small or large graduating class?

  2. I wonder if I could recognize any of my class mates after more than 50 years. Unlike you I have not been to any reunion mostly due to the fact that I live in Canada far away from my school in Germany. You are right, gratitude is right kind of attitude when you look into the past and the present. There is so much that we can be thankful for. Have a nice day! Peter

  3. It just feels like we are too young to lose those we went to school with. It feels unnatural but intellectually I understand it. I just lost my 94 yr old dad and that feels like it happened too soon. Your reunion makes me think that maybe I should be planning to go to mine for the first time. Thanks for sharing.

    1. So sorry about your father. I lost mine a few years ago at age 93. You are right… too soon. It was so odd to think that anyone our age (early 60s) could be gone. It seems way too young. The names included several who passed away not too long after leaving high school for various reasons. Very sad, but a good reminder to embrace life every day.

  4. Hi, Janis – Like your other commenters, I am also glad that you went.
    Thank you for sharing this experience. It may just help encourage someone else to attend their reunion, and to be reminded just how precious life is. Nice post!

    1. Hi Donna. Yes, I really think attending these get togethers is important. I do realize that some people had a horrible time in high school and don’t want to see anyone again but most of us had a good experience. Also, people change. Some of my good friends now weren’t a part of the group I hung out with in high school.

  5. One thing I like about reunions is that you are in a room full of people that are all your age, and you all have a shared history. That doesn’t happen every day. It is sobering to learn so many classmates have passed away. We have a Facebook page dedicated to our class and it’s sad when they add someone to the “no longer with us” list. Glad you went and glad you had a good time.

    1. Many of my classmates were together since elementary school so our history goes way back. Someone was smart enough to bring a yearbook to the event so we could see our “befores” (in the book) and “afters” (in real life). Of course, I haven’t changed a bit 🙂 . I am so glad that I went.

  6. I haven’t been to a reunion lately – but I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to visit with high school friends/acquaintances that I haven’t seen for years – as they pass through Chicago. Something about shared history makes such mini-reunions more meaningful than the random encounters with strangers at a coffee shop. Thanks for a lovely post.

    1. So many of us still live in the same city where we grew up and attended school (I’m not sure whether that’s because we live in a nice place, or it shows a lack of imagination 🙂 ) so our shared history continues to this day. I hope that for our 50th (yikes!) more classmates who live out of town will make the effort to come. It’s such a nice opportunity to catch-up.

  7. You were glad you went in the end Janis. I had a large class as well, in fact 613 kids, so about the same as you. I did not go to the 40-year reunion, however, they made a Facebook reunion site and at one time I’d say there were about 100-125 people in that group. I knew maybe 20 out of the group which was not saying much, since half of those were high school friends I had kept in touch with on Facebook since we “discovered” each other on there. I looked through that group of people and only a handful of the woman used their maiden name and it really didn’t matter as I could not i.d. them or many guys. I could not remember names or anything … so amazing how we change. We don’t think we do as we see that same face in the mirror staring back at us, but looking at old pictures and fast forwarding quickly, makes you stop in your tracks doesn’t it?

    1. For the big reunions (30, 40, 50, etc.) usually the planners will create name tags with the person’s high school picture in them. For this one, we only had our memories to go by (such as they are 🙂 ). Fortunately, someone brought a yearbook so we could look people up if we needed to. Looking back on the evening, my only regret was not getting around to talking to more people.

      1. Our 45-year reunion is this October, but it is very informal. One of my classmates, who I don’t even remember, owns a bar/restaurant with her husband, and they will have it there. They did have an organized event for the 40th and then posted the pictures on the Facebook Class of ’73 reunion site. I couldn’t tell from their profile pictures who many were and then I couldn’t tell after looking at their pictures from the event, though they wore name tags that featured the same photo used in the yearbook or exchanged with one another. We had many cliques in high school, so it would be near impossible with a class that size to know everyone unless they were in class with you. We also had no extracurricular activities for our freshman and junior year. Our City lost a millage vote and we had only four hours of school a day, no sports, arts, drama, music, no college prep classes, just four basic classes and it was that way for two years, so you went to school, and that’s about it.

          1. No, because I really just hung out with five girls through high school. We had no school activities until senior year and then we were inseparable. We spent most weekend hours together and after we graduated, three of us went to school and three began working. We got together the first Christmas and exchanged gifts but it was uncomfortable, like we lost touch with one another, though we had talked on the phone with each other from time to time. One girl got married and we all attended, but did not stand up for her. We had a five-year reunion, movie and out to eat (what we did every Friday night) and we could barely carry a conversation. We never reunited again and one of the girls moved to Oklahoma and passed away about ten years ago from ovarian cancer. Maybe I’ll go to the 50th because I was surprised to see that people came from out of state for the 40th. Did people travel far for your reunion as well Janis?

  8. We had a class of about 300 and for our 40th we did a 3 day event to try to get as many people that we could to attend. I was part of the planning committee (even though I was not one of the popular kids or any class officer). Interestingly, there were still some clicks but for the most part, we all realized that we had changed a lot in 40 years and it was good to connect with each other. We managed to get almost half of our class to attend at least one event. Quite a few even did all three. This would have been our 45th year and though there was some talk on Facebook, there was no reunion. Maybe 50. Also, interestingly, they did have an “all school” reunion where all the grades could attend and I hardly knew anyone outside my class.

    1. This was our 45th year too and it seemed like the right type of event to have… not to fussy, just a great opportunity to get together. We almost didn’t have an event but, fortunately, a classmate took it upon himself to put it together. I imagine our 50th will be a little more formal… but many of us, when polled, said that we liked the casual atmosphere. I hope your class has a 50th… although it takes a few dedicated people to put it on (maybe you again?).

  9. It’s interesting you mentioned the classmates who are no longer with us. Yesterday I learned of yet another one in my cohort. It’s sobering because there have been too many.

    We had a very small graduating class – only a dozen of us. After we all turned 56 (the year we were all born), our gatherings started to become annual – for those who could make. I stopped going a couple of years ago. I found that people tended to talk only about the past, as in stories from our high school years. This has little or no interest for me. It’s a good sign to me that in your reunion your former classmates were able to get past the past.

    1. Wow, just 12? I’m not sure that I’d want to stand around with a group of people talking about the past either. I guess there was some talk about that, but I found most people talked about what they are involved in now… and most of that didn’t involve sitting around relaxing.

      1. We started Grade 9 with a couple of hundred, but by the time we reached Grade 13, only a dozen remained at graduation, so our reunions involve more than just a dozen 😏

        Your reunion sounds so much more interesting!

    1. I came so close to not going, especially since I was solo. Funny, though, I noticed that many (most?) classmates were solo too (either they didn’t bring their spouse or didn’t have one). I hope that next time, I remember this experience and decide to go without all the internal back-and-forth nonsense 🙂 .

  10. There is nothing like re-acquainting ourselves with old friends. So many common experiences! So many values shared! This spring I had the good fortune to find an old friend from the early 1960s—she came across my blog, and contacted me. Surprising how it seems as if no time at all has gone by!

  11. I’ve never gone to my reunion but we go to my husbands. At his 50th (yes, he’s that old!) one of the women in our group asked who someone was. Her husband asked which guy she was asking about because there was a group. She said the old guy with the white hair. They were all old with white hair so we got a good laugh! The list of the departed was on each table and consumed two sides of an 8×11 sheet. Very sobering. We had a good time. They may go to lunches or early dinners without bands in the future because folks don’t want to drive in the dark and many come from a distance. Time marches on. We are grateful to be able to attend without walkers or oxygen.

    1. The thinning, gray hair is a little shocking, especially when I look at the high school pictures and see long, thick flowing locks (on the boys too 🙂 ). My 50th will be in five years… I imagine we’ll all show our age a little bit more, and a few more will be gone. As they say, “These are the good ole days.”

  12. My 40th was last weekend, and I had decided to skip it because it would have involved getting on a plane and staying overnight back where I grew up. I was fine with my decision until I saw some of the pictures on FB and had some wistful moments about not going. But there will be other reunions hopefully. I’m glad you were able to connect into the gratitude vibe at your gathering. It sounds like it said in a meaningful way. – Marty

    1. Since I’ve always been in town for our reunions (although I missed my 30th since I was getting married that day 🙂 ), I haven’t had to decide if it was worth traveling to. I’m always grateful for those out-of-towners who are able to come because I know what a hassle travel can be. I hope that you decide to attend your 50th (assuming there is one). It is so nice to re-connect with old friends and catch up… well worth the hassle, I think.

  13. I’m so glad you went and connected with the fellow “old people”, LOL! Who’s old?? People in the crowd look great! I, too, am grateful my husband and I are both still connected to our high school friends. We went back as a married couple this time, but I was still impressed with many who were still married over 25 years! When most of us turn 60 in 2020, there is talk of a Vegas get together to celebrate that. Otherwise we wait until our 50th in 2028 (egads!).

  14. I’ve only been to one school reunion (actually the only one i’ve ever heard of) and was amazed how recognisable people were. We had easy conversations but I’ve not seen any of them since, except the friend I went with. A strange thing was that I remarked that Val and I were still friends after becoming best friends in school, and another woman said she didn’t remember us being that close. That made me question my own memory I have to say!

    1. I am currently friends with several of my former classmates that I didn’t hang out with in high school. We all change and shared interests come and go. But, that being said, I think I’d trust your memory of who you were friends with in high school more than that other woman’s recollection 🙂

      1. True! But I decided she was sort of right in that Val was probably A best friend rather than THE best friend, but our friendship lasted when others didn’t which has coloured my view of the past. Maybe! Or maybe the other woman just wasn’t very observant as a girl.

  15. I’m so glad you went to that mini reunion! Isn’t it odd how we picture our old high school friends just the way the were when we last saw them, and are shocked when we walk into a room full of “old people?” But you are so right about the gratitude. As we age, we stop trying to impress each other and are just plain grateful for what, and most importantly whom, we have in our lives. Which allows us to be ourselves and enjoy one another in a way we never could have back in high school It really is a gift.

    1. In some ways, we changed a lot… in others, not so much. I think the best part is that most of us have become more authentic and less worried about what others think. The insecurities of high school slip away (we hope) and are replaced by self-acceptance.

  16. Isn’t it amazing how strong the bonds of friendship (or just acquaintanceship) from high school have survived the years. Maybe because it was such a time of self discovery, before the responsibilities of real life kicked in. Regrettably, I will miss my 40th reunion this fall. No way am I going to cut my Spain trip short to see a bunch of “old people”.

  17. Good for your husband for encouraging you! My high school class was only about 30 so we combine several years and have a reunion every two years. At first I wondered who all the old people were but as you wrote the years melted away to reveal a young person. Our numbers are dwindling also.

  18. I took a different path after 9th grade so there won’t be graduating class reunion to go to in my life time. I don’t regret that, because it was the right path for me at the time, but I do wonder how so many friends ended up, and I long to see and know what happened to my best friend…who I did keep up with well into my 30’s then she just disappeared. I hope to run into her again one day here or hereafter I don’t care which.

    It’s good to know you had a lovely experience, and I think remembering those who have left this world before us keeps their spirits alive.

    1. It’s odd how people can just “disappear,” especially with social media keeping tabs on us, whether we like it or not. I lost track of a good friend and told myself all sorts of reasons how that could have happened. Then, all of a sudden, she appeared on Facebook and we were able to reconnect. Turns out, all the reasons for her disappearance I was afraid of were not the case at all. I hope you can reconnect with your friend too.

  19. I haven’t really had this experience personally, but my husband has, and I am so happy for him. He has reconnected with a fairly large group of old friends after one of the BIG reunion years, and now he also has another mini-reunion later next month. I think it’s wonderful that you noticed how many ways people expressed gratitude and that the conversation was more substantive than in younger years. It sounds like a quality group of friends. I love your reminder that you are in charge of your own life! A good reminder to all of us…mostly me! LOL!

    1. Sometimes I talk myself into “obligations”… and then I realize that I can make the choice to participate or not. Anyway, I’m glad I gave myself permission to stay or go, whatever I felt best. I’m glad that your husband was able to reconnect with his friends. Several of my high school friends now are not the ones I hung out with while in school. It’s nice to re-meet people after we have become adults and have found our paths.

  20. Class reunion keeps surfacing in my life. The graduating class numbered 32 in our small town back in 1974. There have been reunions every 10 yrs until 2004. I was part of that organizing group championed by Christine, who said how much she loved the reunions and couldn’t wait until the next one. Sadly, Christine died shortly after that reunion and no one has picked up the torch. I recently had contact with a school mate whom I haven’t seen for > 45 yrs. He’s interested in another school reunion. Yesterday, someone from the graduating class talked of a reunion. And now your post. I especially like Anne Coleman’s comment and your response, Janis. At this age, we can stop trying to impress each other and just be ourselves. Our reunions have always included classmates throughout the years, not just those in the graduation class. One thing that I remember from the 2004 reunion – 2 classmates who hadn’t attended the first 2 reunions were grateful to have another opportunity to attend a reunion. Maybe it’s time to create another opportunity?

    1. I think the universe may be trying to tell you sometime (and it isn’t being very subtle 🙂 ). I hope you are able to put together another reunion for your classmates. They don’t have to be formal affairs, in fact I think most people appreciate a more casual atmosphere.

  21. Hi Janis! How interesting to read all the comments both pro and con for attending reunions. I have attended two of them so far and I think I’m done. I am already in touch with everyone I knew that I was friends with–and others, not so much. I wasn’t in the “popular” group per se and unfortunately, it still seemed very much a redo of how it was in high school. Besides, I vastly prefer smaller groups of people where you can really talk and connect. I am glad you had a good time though. And I agree that life is precious and we should definitely be grateful for what we have. ~Kathy

    1. I’m definitely with you on smaller groups, which is why I hesitated so much before going to the event. I have connected with several classmates who weren’t in my circle of friends in high school but who I now consider to be good friends… all because of meeting them again at a prior reunion. Who knows why we didn’t hang out then but, as adults, we have found much in common. I’m glad I went to our event, but I can certainly appreciate why you might not want to go to yours, especially if they feel like a “redo.”

  22. These reunions sound great and interesting. I’d love to find out how my previous classmates are doing, but I expect “jobs” and “kids” would be hot topics. I’ll never know, since nobody ever organized one of those after my high school or college years. Or, I never found out about them. With my Belgian address (until very recently) still being the same, I have to assume nobody ever organized an official reunion. Funny how Terri just posted about her last reunion as well. I am missing out! 🙂

    I’m glad you had a good time, Janis, and it is proof again that if we never ever “try” (or never go), we’ll never find out whether it’ll be fun/worthwhile or not.

  23. I’ve never been to a class reunion – the appeal just isn’t there for me for some reason. Maybe Facebook killed it for me – I keep in contact with several friends from highschool days and can’t be bothered doing the 2hr drive to attend any reunions. Maybe one day – but I can see the appeal for those who have regular catch-ups. Glad you ended up enjoying yours after the intitial hesitation.

    1. I just rescued you from my spam file… I have no idea how you ended up there (sorry). If I didn’t still live in my hometown, I’m not sure how many reunions I would go to… maybe just a few big ones. There was a discussion about how Facebook may be killing traditional reunions. I think that would be sad, but I guess it’s “progress.” Social media is making a lot of changes to how interact.

  24. I totally understand your concern about going to a reunion, I’d be the same. It seems a lifetime ago since my school/college friends were my close friends and my world, but time and life takes over and creates these people as distance memories. I’d be very embarrassed if I didn’t remember names/faces etc I’ve never been to a reunion, but do keep in touch with a handful of past school friends. I’m so glad you had a lovely time 🙂

    1. Nowadays, not only do I have trouble remembering names and faces (especially when they look so different) but my eyes have trouble reading the nametags. It was nice seeing my classmates at the reunion but I’m OK waiting another 5 years to see many of them again. 🙂

  25. I attended my 10th and 25th high school reunions, the only two that have been held. I had second thoughts about going to them, the first because I had to travel 2000 km to get to it from where I was living at the time, and the second because I had just gone through a very difficult time in my life. I thought it might be hard to face everyone. But in both cases, I was very glad that I went. It was so interesting to reconnect with people with whom I had lost touch, and we had some great conversations. It will be interesting to see if anyone in my hometown decides to organize a 50th reunion in a few years.

    Jude

  26. Hi, Janis! Having been away, I’m catching up on my favorite blogs and I want to compliment you on an absolutely lovely post!

    I’ve never had an interest in attending school reunions but have stayed in touch with my circle of friends from high school. (One friendship actually dates back to first grade!) In fact, a couple of years ago this group of friends scheduled our own “reunion” and we have our second scheduled for later this month. Although we are all not in touch constantly throughout the year, we do manage to stay in touch regularly and, over the years, we have shared both happy and sad occasions – marriages, births of children (then grandchildren!), career successes and, inevitably, the loss of parents. What I love about this group is that, no matter how long it has been since we last got together, we all just pick right up where we left off and truly enjoy each other’s company as much as we did in high school. So blessed!

    Congrats to you on overcoming your misgivings about the reunion – and thanks for posting such a thoughtful recounting of the event!

    1. I agree that just staying in touch (assuming these are people we still like 🙂 ) is important… not the type of event. Your unofficial reunion sounds delightful! It is so nice to have that history with good friends. One thing the official reunions have provided for me is the opportunity to connect with people I went to school with but weren’t necessarily in my circle of friends. Now that we are adults, we have found that we have shared interests and have become friends.

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