Appreciating My Classmates
Since July, we have lost four (that we know of) high school classmates. My husband told me after our 50threunion, that by the time we get to our 60thyear reunion, half of our class will be deceased. That sounded so unreal at the time, but when I hear of four deaths in the last few months, I guess his prediction might be correct.
It makes me sad when I think of those we have lost. I didn’t know them well. In fact, I didn’t know hardly any of my classmates when I was in high school. I knew them as acquaintances. I didn’t hang out with any of them, and I didn’t date in high school. They were kids I said “hello” to in the hallways or at the drama club activities where I was involved. That was the best I knew them.
Move forward to our 40thclass reunion. It wasn’t a big reunion. We had 426 students in our class. The 40threunion had an attendance right at 100, and that included spouses and dates, so there might have been maybe 50-60 classmates in attendance. Because it was a small reunion, and because we were now more mature, the planning committee decided to make everyone feel welcome. We actually had a classmate register for the reunion who no one on the committee knew. We looked up his name in the yearbook, and he was not there, so we looked at the roster from graduation, and there he was, a part of our class. We later found out that his family had moved to our school district his senior year, thus missing the senior photo in the yearbook, but graduating with our class.
One of the committee members made a statement that has stuck with me since. He said, “We are not 17 any longer. None of us knew him, but let’s make sure everyone feels welcome.” That was a profound statement. We are no longer 17. We don’t care about cliques or status. If you were in our class, we welcome you.
That is exactly how our 40threunion went. The committee hung out around the room and tried to talk to as many attendees as possible. During the evening we passed the microphone around and everyone from the class shared whatever they wanted about themselves and their lives. We had a lovely time reacquainting, or even getting to know for the first time, folks from our class. When the party was over, one of my classmates came up to me and told me that a group of them were going to a local bar afterwards and invited me to come along. My first thought was that when I was in high school, I was never invited to the parties or the after-parties. Yes, I decided to join them. We sat around for another hour or so (about 30 of us), drinking alcohol or non-alcohol, and visited some more. There was something that night the changed the way this class related to each other.
After that night, the group decided it was really fun to get together, and started a monthly dinner. An email would go out, and we would respond if we were available, and the person would make reservations for whatever number at a local restaurant. We ate dinner together, chit-chatted about whatever was happening in our day, and go home. It was casual events.
Shortly after our 40threunion, one of the attendees died. We were all taken off guard, because she seemed to be fine at the reunion. After her death, we thought it might be good to have reunions every five years, instead of 10, because as we age, we will lose more classmates.
Those numbers didn’t start rolling in until around our 50threunion. I was in charge of PR, and I send email after email to classmates. I didn’t sell the reunion as one where we would reminisce about our glory days of high school, because the reality was that high school wasn’t all that great for many of us. I would send emails out about the fact that we were grown up, and the one thing we all had in common was that we shared a space in time together in high school. Had it been a good or a bad experience, we are all grown up now, and we would love to see you again, or even for the first time, and get to know you. We are at the age we are losing friends and family, and what a wonderful time to to rekindle old friendships and make new friendships. I was beginning to get responses to the emails from classmates who were too ill to attend.
I sent emails almost monthly for 18 months prior to the reunion. The last 6 weeks, I sent them almost weekly. I listed on each email who had registered. I knew folks were looking for their old friends. I established a class Facebook page, that is still widely used by classmates. Many who were unable to attend the reunion, happily joined our Facebook group page.
I would throw out questions on this new Facebook page. The first question I threw out was, “If you could change anything about your high school experience, what would that be?” That may not be the exact question, but that was the gist of it. I was surprised to
see so many people answer the question. The interesting thing was that most of the people, the jocks, the popular kids, the ones no one knew, pretty much all of them, responded how those years were difficult and that they didn’t feel a part of things. Wow! It was kind of universal. I remember one of the guys said he never asked any girl out because he was afraid of being rejected. I opened the yearbook, looked up his photo, and he was this really cute young fellow. I didn’t know him hardly in high school, but over the years at reunions, I thought he was a really nice person. I thought so many of those girls would have probably gone out with him, or like him, they didn’t see themselves in a good light either.
That’s when I realized that we are not who we were in high school. We have grown up and matured. Interesting fact: many of the popular kids from high school have never shown up for a reunion, while the not so popular kids have. One of my classmates, who became a high school teacher, commented that in her experience teaching that some kids peak in high school—they are the cute ones, the popular ones, and then later in life, they don’t feel that about themselves, and we never see them again. Then there are many of us who didn’t peak until we were adults, and we came back and found we were not so different from anyone else.
Our high school class is very unusual. I have friends and family from the years around my class who say they are done going to reunions. The last one they went to was a disaster, poor planning, unfriendly people, cliques still in place. I wouldn’t have believed that had I not seen that for myself.
My sister is six years older than me. The year of her 50threunion, her husband passed away, and she was really struggling. I convinced her to come home for her reunion, and I and our other sister would be her dates for the reunion. She wasn’t sure because she said her class was snobbish. She did attend, and we were her dates. She found some of her old friends (acquaintances) and we sat at the dinner together having a nice visit. Then as people were mingling around the room, one of the “popular” girls came up to her and asked her who she was. My sister introduced herself, and this lady replied, “No, I didn’t know you,” and turned on a dime and walked away. You had to lift my jaw off the floor. Really? Fifty years later you still act like a selfish 17 year old? Wow!
So, over the last 13 years since our 40threunion, our class continues to connect. We seem to have a class who “gets it.” Popular, not popular, scholars, those of us who eaked our way through—all of us connect, we care about each other. We root for each other and get concerned when we hear about a health crisis or a death in their families. We get together whenever we can — the class of ’66 is still about a good party. Dennis and I have entertained them at our home several times, the last time having an Eclipse party the day in 2017 of the total eclipse going directly over our home in Mid-Missouri. A couple months ago, one of our classmates was celebrating her 50thwedding anniversary, and she invited her classmates to the party. There were three large tables of her classmates that attended. Did we all hang out with her in high school? No, but we began to care deeply about her through our years together.
I love that our class cares about each other. We are from different backgrounds. We are different religions, different political parties, different economic statuses, but we all shared a tiny bit of history together walking the same hallways in our youth. Somehow, the class of 1966 from Lindbergh High School in St. Louis, Missouri, got it. I am so blessed to be from this class.
So, yesterday, when one of our classmates posted that a fellow classmate had passed away, it was overwhelming to see the responses. This particular classmate did not attend any reunions until the 50th. He was active on Facebook, and many were connected to him that way. Many classmates shared their sorrow of his death. I wonder if he ever realized that we all liked him and cared for him?
I don’t know what kind of high school you attended. I don’t know if you are blessed to have a class like my high school class. I just know that our class has a very strong connection to each other. We love these old human beings we have become. The St. Louis classmates still get together for lunches—yes, we could change to lunch instead of dinner since almost everyone is retired. Classmates living in Florida and the Florida snowbirds get together in the winter for lunches. Since we have gone to Arizona, I have set up lunches there with classmates. There are not a lot from our class there, so we have included a few years around our class also.
What is it about the Lindbergh High School Class of 1966? I don’t know. I just know that God has blessed us with wonderful people who care about each other (and their spouses and significant others). We don’t care about our differences. We care about the person. We want to see them content, and healthy as possible. We grieve with them when they lose their spouse or family member, and we all grieve when we lose them.
I miss those who cannot, for whatever reason, return to St. Louis for our get-togethers. I really miss those who have passed. You all made our experiences in high school and in later years richer. Three cheers for this wonderful class that I have gotten to know over the years.