REUNIONS–TO GO OR NOT TO GO

bday_balloons_bus_card.338122604

60th  HIGH SCHOOL REUNION

Over the years most of us have gone to reunions, high school/college.  Those early ones to impress classmates with successful jobs, handsome spouses, beautiful, intelligent children…all trying to out do our classmates like final scores on SAT’s (which we didn’t have to take way back then because most of us didn’t go to college which was for the rich (no student loans) or “very” smart.)  As the years passed, we finally outgrew the one upsmanship (most of us any way) and began to celebrate survival.  I enjoy the light–hearted  tone of  the following rhyme:

 Class Reunion

bday_balloons_bus_card.338122604It was my class reunion, and all through the house
I checked in each mirror and begged my poor spouse
To say I looked great, that my chin wasn’t double,
And he lied through false teeth, just to stay out of trouble.
Said that neath my thick glasses, my eyes hadn’t changed,
And I had the same figure just a mite rearranged.
Said my skin was still silky, though looser in drape,
Not like smooth satin, but more like silk crepe.
I swallowed his words hook, sinker, and line,
And entered the banquet feeling just fine.bday_balloons_bus_card.338122604
Somehow I’d expected my classmates to stay
As young as they were on that long–ago day.
We’d hugged farewell hugs, but like me, through the years,
They’d  added gray to their hair, and pounds to their rears.
But as we shared a few memories and retold our class jokes
We were eighteen in spirit though we looked like our folks.
We turned up our hearing aids, dimmed down the lights.
Rolled back the years and were young for the night
Donna Presnell/ Elizabeth Lucas

www.balloonsbythebunch.net/

 The notice came in the mail the other day…60 Year Reunion!  Come celebrate It can’t be.  I go to the basement (it needs cleaning, of course, but I remind my husband that it was in the fine print on the marriage certificate: “I don’t do basements.  I know it’s here somewhere.  I move the old ice cream maker.  Haven’t used that since the kids left home–the oldest just celebrated his 58th birthday, but we might sometime (use it that is)  Then I move  the five jugs of water (you never know when that predicted catastrophe is going to happen) that sit in front of the boxes that hold  “who knows what. ” It might be there, my 1954 high school year book.

After opening a number of boxes of outdated treasures, gotta throw these away someday, I note mentally, I find it.   My old “Maroon”.   I pull up the old rocking chair– Granny’s.  The canes are broken across the back but I can have it re-caned and who knows, maybe one of the grand kids would like it. I settle back,  brush off the cover.  The years roll back with the dust.  Mustang logo

FLASHBACK”  A kaleidoscope of images: white bucks and saddle shoes, boys wearing jeans so low that “pantsing” had to be outlawed by the authorities (kids would sneak up behind an unsuspecting buddy, grab his pants on both sides and jerk…exposed! Ankle- length peg skirts so tight our walk became a hobble and we had to hike them up to bend our knees to go up the stairs…no running down the hall…cashmere sweaters if you were rich enough to own one with scarves tied neatly about our neck. Dress Code? No slacks for girls, skirts and dresses only.

There was the usual “class distinctions.  The jocks, the students, you know, the ones that belonged to the Math or Chess club, ran for student body offices, worked on the year book. There were the hot rodders who drove around in their  supped–up cars at noon, wore their hair in exaggerated duck tails slicked back with grease, had their pack of cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve of their tee shirts, and yes, even a few tattoos.  These boys our mothers warned us about…I remember Midge married one…divorced (physical abuse?), a single parent raising two girls.

There were the clandestine beer parties in the park…I pause focusing inward on Hazel’s 16th birthday party, Roger grabbing my hand dragging me out the back door as the police, who the neighbors called when someone fell through the plate glass window, came in the front. Never told my children about that episode of my “well-behaved” teen–age years.

Our senior year. I rock in the chair, close my eyes remembering our “coming-of-age” dramas  where we learned of sex (yes, Gerry was pregnant at graduation– they just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. ) We fell in and out of love, wore men’s over sized white shirts, and our boyfriend’s letterman sweaters and then we, Milwaukie High School, like the Hoosiers, won the state basketball championship and became the Class that made Milwaukie  famous.  Images of the welcoming-home parade come into focus and I can feel again the thrill of it all when we (cheer leaders) rode on the flat bed truck with the team waving our maroon/gold pom poms.POMSMBG

 The faces and times swim before me in a haze.  I was going steady with Bill, the class super hero, tall, handsome    all-around jock: basketball, track. The camera winds forward.  He marries Bunny, two children, divorces, dies in  1995. Clairene, his twin sister, the first Longshore woman in Portland, Oregon, the only person I  know who  doesn’t have a “social” face, stays in touch after all these years.

  LIFE:  I thumb through the pictures:  Roger marries Kay/ divorces,  daughter murdered by fiance, son killed on a motorcycle.  Stan marries/divorces/remarries Marge who died of breast cancer several years ago.  Don, who became a big wig in banking, flew Roger in a helicopter to his private club to play golf…later barely survived the Savings and Loan debacle.  Sherrill Houser, class president, becomes our most famous member.  World renowned sculpture (Big! sculpture, not him) over 4  stories high! Bronze, Conquistador on a stallion,  El Paso, Texas.don-juan-de-onate-statue-el-paso-airport  I guess it was natural for him to think big, his father was second in command in the creation of Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.

I turn the pages.  Stories of far away places, success, failure, grief, joy reflect the years of our lives.  Reunions?  They are like time warps and for a few moments we return to the years of our becoming.  We squint at faces trying to connect them to the name tag. We girls will have our hair “professionally” done for the occasion, buy a new dress to wrap around a body that no longer resembles our youthful mystique.

I hear Ron upstairs moving about the kitchen.  Time for dinner. I replace the yearbook,  push the rocking chair back into its corner.  The reunion is in Oregon, I am in New York.  The time and distance echoes.  I sigh.  Too far, too long ago–I won’t be going to the reunion.

en.wikipedi.org/wiki/John_Sherrill_Houser

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