Love or Hate Reunions?

Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose. — From the television show The Wonder Years

The beauties, the jocks, the popular crowd
Make an entrance, heads held aloft.
Still strong of body, smooth of skin, untouched
By challenges they couldn’t or wouldn’t face.

The geeks, nerds, shy ones, and unknowns
Slink in hoping not to draw attention.
Who’d have thought they’d grow into attractiveness?
All grab name tags, then gravitate to special friends from before.

Funny how the old cliques persist, years after graduation.

Five or ten years out, talk centers on accomplishments.
Who has married, how many babies, whose job is most promising.
There are golf outings, tennis matches, bowling, and such.
Drinks flow freely, and so does the food.

Fast forward to the golden years, when things typically slow down.
Weathered hands fumble for name tags, grateful at last
For a chance to put names to faces, to call a halt to
The endless “Bet you don’t remember me” game.

An assortment of canes, wheelchairs, and oxygen tanks appears.
The aging beauties and athletes don’t look one bit better
Than their counterpart nerds, geeks, and unpopular classmates.
Most are familiar with pain, have shaken hands with illness and death.

Talk of grand-babies, retirement, and which surgeons are best
For replacing knees and hearts grabs the attention of all present.
A slideshow reminds them who is no longer among the living.
Activities include sit-down dinners, coffee, and a tour of the old school.

Funny how the cliques fade away, the older classmates become.

25 thoughts on “Love or Hate Reunions?

    • Thanks, John — I wouldn’t know about the “golden years,” but I’ve pieced together this and that from stories older people have told me. Sounds positively scary, until one considers the alternative!

  1. Truth to tell, there’s one cheerleader I’d love to see again, hoping against hope that I finally look better than she does. But, it won’t happen, because I’m not a reunion-goer. I’ve never been, and probably never will. (Actually, I was going to say I might go to my 50th, but it’s too late. It was last year! Good grief. Well, maybe I’ll try for the 75th. I’d only be 92!)

    I do think you’ve put your finger on something important — that age is a great equalizer. I have a friend who just turned 81 — she’s 13 years older than I am. When I was 20 and she was 33, that would have been a huge gap. Now, it’s no gap at all.

    And then there’s this: as we age, we need to make younger friends, because the older ones are going to be drifting off to the Big Reunion in the Sky!

    • Linda, judging from what others tell me, you probably DO look better than that cheerleader! I think sometimes, people “peak” early, then spend the rest of their lives trying to go back to the way they looked then; others are “late bloomers” and seem to just grow younger. If scientists could figure out that fountain of youth, they’d make a fortune!

      Perhaps making younger friends is key. The older ones can share their wisdom; the younger ones can spread their joy and wonder!

  2. I’ve never been to a school reunion and family reunions are not my cuppa either. Talk is forced or impossible. I have a Facebook friend I knew in both grade school and highschool and its funny how she has completely forgotten she was one of the worst mean girls. Her renditions of the past amuse me, tho, along with the fact that she recalls those days as the best years of her life. Now that is so sad. The poem is spot on.

    • Thanks, Katybeth. I got a kick out of your “mean girl” classmate. You and I didn’t go to the same schools, but I remember a few of those, too. And they seem totally oblivious to how much misery they inflicted. Oh, well, maybe there’s hope for us all, huh?!

  3. Oooh this is a very powerful piece. I always avoid reunions of this time as my school days were mildly traumatic. But time and age catches all in the end, no matter how cool we think we were.

    • You too, Lucy? Mine weren’t traumatic so much as miserable. I remember not fitting in at all in high school — the popular kids were “doing things” I wasn’t even thinking about! I realized good grades and a bucket-load of activities were my ticket out, so that’s where I put my energies. Almost like my classmates and I were traveling in different universes!

      • I won a scholarship to a private school but as practically the only child from a single parent family there I was bullied mercilessly. It was fairly miserable until one day I snapped and sought out my bullies one by one. Some unpleasantness ensued and I was expelled! The education system and I never really saw eye to eye after that, which I now find delightfully ironic!

        • Bless your heart, Lucy — you were resourceful even as a wee lass, weren’t you? I suspect I’d have done much the same thing if I’d been wearing your shoes! With me, it was more insidious. My “friends” gave me the silent treatment our entire senior year when I refused to participate in the things they thought were “cool.” Argh! ‘Twas a relief to fly off to university, I tell ya!!

        • Kids can be so cruel and the saddest thing is, they don’t even know it. But I think it makes people like you and I more aware of such things in adult life and gives us an extra layer of empathy. I like to see it as a blessing in disguise. Very heavily disguised, I’ll grant you, but a blessing nonetheless.

  4. Great one, Debbie, and so true! I never go to reunions – like you, I prefer to remember people as they were, especially since that way I don’t have to face up ti the fact that I might look just a touch older than when I left school too… 😉 But my brother was out with the ‘boys’ last week – a group of friends who’ve kept in touch throughout the years – and he was laughing at the fact that they no longer talk about football or girls. Now it’s all about comparing health problems…

    • Funny how men seem to keep guy-friends for life, where we women gravitate to certain friends at certain life stages. My late dad had buddies from way back that he’d always speak of with great fondness; my mom? Nope. Perhaps it’s just a difference in personalities.

      Anyway, I know people who go back to every reunion and try to convince the rest of us to attend, too. Just not my thing. If I want to see someone, I’ll phone them and do lunch! Thanks for reassuring me I’m not alone in this!

  5. This is such a true depiction of reunions … at least the ones I’ve been to so far. My 30th is coming up and I think I’m going to pass this year. My closest friends from high school aren’t reunion goers … and there are just those couple of former classmates whose attitudes seem not to have changed a bit. Every time I think about them, I get annoyed again. I’m happy to leave the past in the past. Maybe when we’re all hobbling around with age, things will be different.

    • So I’ve heard, Terri. My mom and my late dad went to one of her college reunions (long after they’d graduated, but I won’t say how long!), and that’s what they found. Perhaps those old rivalries aren’t as strong for the college years as they are in high school?!

  6. Debbie, I went to my college reunion once, and didn’t really know anybody. I only saw two familiar faces. That’s it. Five years ago I went to my first high school reunion. I recognized a few more faces, but it wasn’t the same. That’s it for me!

    • I don’t blame you in the least! I went to one high school reunion and that was enough — maybe when we’re all old and grey I’ll give it another shot (or maybe not!)

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