Class Reunions – Who Got Fat, Bald and Divorced

About the time I started high school, my father was planning to attend his twenty-year class reunion, and my mother had two things to say about these affairs. First was that people go to them “to find out who got fat, who got bald, and who got divorced.” A rather cynical outlook, I thought. But as I’ve grown older, it makes more sense, and says a lot in a small number of words.

The other thing was that “everybody just breaks off into the same little cliques that they were in during high school.” That seems natural to me, as we would want to first connect with those we spent the most time with. Regardless, I’ve been told that each reunion gets a bit less cliquey.

At any rate, early this summer I received an invitation to the latest decennial gathering. I can recite a lot of really good reasons that I never go, most having something to do with cost and logistics of getting there and back. But in reality, I have to admit that a class reunion is not something that I get excited about.

As a kid, I was one of the nerds that got harassed and picked on, so I don’t regard that period of my life as something to celebrate. On the other hand, there were many classmates I remember as good people… some were friends, and there are others who simply showed kindness and respect. Reconnecting with some of these people could be interesting.

Many years ago, there was a well-written piece floating around on the Internet that was falsely promoted as a commencement speech by a famous author. One of the lines in that piece was, “as you get older, you will value the counsel of those who knew you when you were young.” That line is the most compelling reason to attend.

But the time and money it would take me to go are needed for other things, and there are other ways to reconnect with classmates. The organizing committee set up a Facebook page, but we don’t do Facebook (this is why). So the rest of this post will serve as a decennial status report for my classmates, and I’ll send a link to the reunion organizers to share with the rest of the class.

To protect my privacy and that of my classmates, I won’t be mentioning where or when we went to school, and I don’t plan to name names. I will also try to enforce this discipline in the comments. Anyone who wishes to talk about specific people, events or places can send me a private message.

Late in high school, I took up hitch-hiking as a way to get home from school. As a college student four years later, I discovered that hitch-hiking enabled me to cover vast distances for very little money, and it offered  incredible adventures along the way. After my first cross-country trip – to Florida and back over spring break – I was hooked.

I would embark on a hitch-hiking adventure once or twice each year until I hooked up with a commune, which accounted for thirteen years of my early adulthood. Since then, I’ve had several gigs involving computers… technician, help desk, prepress operator, network administrator, IT director. Now I am working as a freelance web programmer.

I met my wife RoZ (pronounce “Rozie”) in the early 90’s, and we’ve been happily married since ’95. We have no kids (not a choice we made, just the hand we’ve been dealt), which we regard as liberating rather than disappointing.

We had a chance to travel extensively in 2001: a two-month summer road trip thru the west, followed by two months in Europe in the fall. We’ve taken quite a few shorter trips to various North American locations, and we still like to hop on a train whenever we can afford it.

Even though I was raised as a working-class conservative (highly influenced by people like the big bald guy who taught us history), after leaving the confines of my home town I became much more progressive. I am an outspoken environmentalist and social justice advocate, our household hasn’t owned a car since 2004, and I’ve served as a national delegate to the Green Party convention.

We live in a purple house in La Crosse with our cat, Gizmo. In our free time, we throw frisbees to each other, or take our tandem recumbent bicycle on long rides on the state trails. We keep a garden because turning dirt into food is a valuable survival skill, and because it’s more fun than mowing grass.

So that’s my status report for this decade. Thanks for reading this far, and if you did, I hope life has been good to you and I wouldn’t mind at all if you sent me a message to say hello.

Extra random thoughts:

* As someone who attended a Catholic school thru eighth grade before going to the public high school, I was encouraged to see that our class reunion was merged with that of the Catholic high school across the street. I think this is a Good Thing that should continue, as even though many of us went to separate high schools, we rode the bus together, played basketball together, were in Boy Scouts and 4H together, and lived down the street from each other.

So I look forward to hearing from friends from grade school. There’s one guy in particular who never went to the same school as me… he went to public grade school and the Catholic high school, but we were in the same Boy Scout troop and played basketball together on a night league team. You know who you are. Send me a message.

* On a related note, it would be good for de facto class officers to have contact info for their counterparts in adjacent classes. After all, we all interacted regularly with students a year ahead of or behind us in high school classes, on the bus, on the basketball court, in photo club, and countless other venues as we grew up.

* There’s an old cliche about how the quarterback of the football team married a cheerleader. Unbelievably, this happened with the quarterbacks from both my grade school and high school teams. Even more unbelievably, each of these guys became widowers at way too young of an age. In spite of how we may have dismissed each other as kids, it still makes me sad to think about this.

* One of the highlights of my high school years was work that I did with the photo club. A lot of my work lives on in our yearbooks (I doubt any of us kept old copies of our student newspaper, the other public outlet for my work). As a prominent photo club member, I was honored to be the photographer for our class’ homecoming court, and I got a lot of praise for these portraits.

I think I did a good job, but not a great job. The good job came from my discovery that a long lens blurred the background and filled the frame with the subject. The not-so-good job involved lighting, as a least two of the subjects were well-lit, but they were squinting to protect their eyes from the direct sunlight in their faces. So let me apologize to the victims of these squinting portraits.

* The beginning and end of my stage acting career was our senior class play (a production that suffered from so much apathy that we had to recruit juniors to fill out the cast). I had a part as a drunken soldier, and I got into a bit of method acting (I think that’s what they call it when you try to live in character) by killing the time between the end of the school day and the beginning of rehearsal at a downtown bar drinking dime beers.

The reward for all this work was to go to the cast party after it was all over, where the beer flowed and I had a chance to prove that I could drink just as much as the rest of the class. Someone gave me a few swigs of wine, and things went far downhill from there. One of my classmates made sure that I got home OK, and she did so without scolding or judging. I never realized how great of an act of kindness this was, and I regret that I never had a chance to thank her for that until now.

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