High School Reunion

Redwood High School Class of 1978 Reunion Badge

The formally educated world splits into two kinds: those who love school reunions and those who loathe them. The emotional gulf between these points of view cannot be easily bridged or forded. The naysayers deride the pointless nostalgia and the overwrought sentimentality for a time when, in reality, they were crude, zit-faced versions of the far more impressive people they would ultimately grow into. They have “moved on” in life and their few attachments to the past are marginalized to the realm of rarely accessed memory.

I am firmly in the other camp. I think school reunions are wonderful fun.

I find it entertaining and inspiring to see the interesting, valuable lives former friends and acquaintances have made for themselves. While I’m not particularly good about staying in touch with old colleagues, it is nonetheless satisfying to catch-up every once-in-a-while.

I attended the tenth Tahoe-Truckee High School reunion of the class ahead of me (our classes were so small, that they invited those before and after them in order to fill-out the guest list) and my tenth Cornell University reunion. I loved them both. I wanted to attend my 25th college reunion last summer, but only thought to look for information two weeks after it had already occurred. I would gladly have attended other Truckee High reunions, but my class has proven itself far too lame to actually coordinate something as elaborate as a party for 40 people.

But Truckee High was only one of the high schools I attended; I also went to Redwood High School in Larkspur, California, just north of San Francisco. I was nominally in the Class of 1978 in both places, though I would up graduating from neither, having quit school early to spend the better part of my year before college as a full-time ski racer.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from an old friend, with whom I’d gone through elementary school, junior high, and high school. She was on the Redwood High reunion committee and asked if I would come. I had given the matter little thought until a series of meetings for one of my projects had me visiting California this past week. Three-plus hours of driving from Sonora late Saturday afternoon put me at the party only fashionably late.

I won’t put you through the list of warm, interesting, lovely people I reconnected with on Saturday night. They included scores of bright, talented, engaging men and women who I had only known as boys and girls. They included my first-ever school-friend, now a strikingly gorgeous woman more than a meter taller than she was when we were kindergarten pals, and my first-ever girlfriend, who also matured into a beautiful woman. Indeed, the question of how one’s classmates appear to have weathered the ravages of time and adult life is always a hot question come reunion time. Here, thirty years later, I bet very few of those in attendance would trade their present good-looks for the way they looked in high school. To drive the point home, perhaps, our name badges bore our old yearbook photographs.

It is hardly surprising, of course that people in their late-forties would be more physically attractive than we were in our teens. This is not simply a function of the inevitable change in fashion and hair-styles – though the late-1970s were exceptionally gruesome, in retrospect. Physical attractiveness has far more to do with the subtle aspects of presence and bearing – things like sense-of-self, confidence, and the comfort that comes from having lived within one’s skin for several decades – than with the easily picked-out features like a well-formed nose, flawless skin, or a chiseled body. Not that I don’t yearn for my pain-free knees of old; but the American cult of youth long ago reached and surpassed absurdity. We are taught to be blind to the plain truth: men and women are almost invariably more beautiful in middle age than in the freshness of youth, joyful, exciting, and energetic a time-of-life as that is.

If, in giving us rare peek at the before-and-after of the aging process, high school reunions allow us to better appreciate this reality, it is just another reason to love them.

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4 Responses to “High School Reunion”


  1. 1 Kendall Mau 1 June 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Hey Mark,

    I’m with you. I love going to reunions. This year is our 40th at UC Berkeley, next year, 45th San Leandro High School. Melvia thinks I’m nuts. I love seeing all my old friends, finding out what they’re doing, and did they achieve their dreams. In fact, I’m leaving for Panama in 2 weeks for a 39th Peace Corps reunion. My host family is still alive and kicking – father 86, mother 76, and 3 children all about my age. One is really blessed to have great friends. Big fiesta planned for my homecoming.

    Kendall

  2. 2 Jan 1 June 2008 at 8:54 pm

    Hi Mark,

    Thanx for the reflections. I appreciate it.

    I too had a great time. I was a tad bored with the routine listing the perfunctory points and tried to zero in on snippets in the past, just to drill down to the sizzle we experienced in our more unconscious days. Some complied naturally with that, many did not.

    Ironically, I engaged a lot with some of the people I never knew. All in all, it was worth the long trip from Hamburg, Germany to be there. The 30 year span made for enough development to see big differences.

    Give me a call when you are in the neighborhood.

    Cheers,

    Jan

  3. 3 viral 5 June 2008 at 12:59 pm

    indeed — there is something about early-on connections that is worth honoring explicitly …

  4. 4 ANONYMOUS 8 June 2008 at 4:25 pm

    I’D RECOGNIZE YOU ANYWHERE, WITH OR WITHOUT THE PONYTAIL (AND SPEAKING OF THE 70’S……………). I HAD NO IDEA YOU WERE GALAVANTING FROM REUNION TO REUNION (AND COVERING A FEW MILES IN DOING SO).

    I DOUBT IT COMES AS A SURPRISE BUT I DIDN’T REALIZE ANYONE ON THE PLANET DETESTED HILARY AS MUCH AS I DO. I’M AT THE POINT OF PHYSICAL ILLNESS WHEN I HEAR HER SPEAK WITH A VOICE THAT NO LONGER CONJURES UP THE FINGER-ON-THE-BLACKBOARD. NEVERTHELESS II GOT TO THE POINT OF HAVING TO SWITCH CHANNELS WHENEVER HER GRAPEFRUIT-SIZED AND SHAPED CHEEKBONES AND NEWLY TRAINED TONE CAME ON THE SCREEN. OBVIOUSLY SHE TOOK THE SAME ELOCUTION LESSONS TONE THAT BUSH NEEDED AFTER HIS FIRST HORRIFIC DAYS IN FRONT OF A CAMERA AND MIKE. DIDN’T DO ALL THAT MUCH FORM HIM EITHER. I DON’T THINK IT’S PREJUDICE THAT KEEPS ME FROM SEEING HILLARY AS A VICTIM OF SEXISM. SEXISM? EXAMPLES, PLEASE. HER VERY CANDIDACY ARGUES AGAINST THAT.

    AS FOR ME, I’M VOTING FOR THE PIG WITH JOHN HOBBS AS VEEP.

    ANONYMOUS


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