Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Anatomy of a class reunion...

By Jim Heffernan

For starters, I couldn’t figure out why there were so many old people at the class reunion. That would be my wife’s high school class reunion in another city.

I hate to give away her age, but when she graduated from high school Fidel Castro had just taken control of Cuba, Elvis had gone into the army, Gen. Eisenhower was still known as President Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth did not smoke, but Princess Margaret did.

So you know it’s a few years ago. In fact, reaching back into U.S. history, if, say for discussion purposes only, she had graduated from high school in 1900 (keeping numbers round here), this reunion would have been held in 1950, with the country having engaged in two world wars, a great depression, advent of television and the dawn of the electric guitar, not to mention flight itself.

Of course if she actually had graduated in 1900 the reunion would have been held in heaven. I’m sure of it.

But lots of changes are wrought in 50 years. I should know – I graduated from high school two years before her.

Still, I’m accustomed to seeing my classmates grow older because we have had many reunions over the years here in Duluth. When I go to my reunions, my classmates look pretty much the way I look when I gaze into the mirror each morning whether I need to or not, come hell or high water, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, and all that.

Not so with her class. I’ve been hearing about her friends from back then for years, and always picture them as high school kids. So we get to the reunion and they are not high school kids at all – they are all what are often referred to as “senior citizens” and not seniors in high school. They look almost as old as me.

It is a bit of a culture shock. As an outsider, I do not share in the memories of their high school years – the New Year’s Eve they did the town, the day they tore the goal post down -- so my role at her reunion was to stand off to the side looking stupid. Her classmates, recognizing me as a member of their own generation but not their class, gaze over at me and I can tell they are saying to themselves: “Now who’s that guy…did he graduate with us or is he a terrorist penetrating our reunion? And what is that spot on his tie?”

I don’t think I look like a terrorist, but the guards at airports do. The government warned us this week to be watchful at public gatherings.

Truth is, I enjoyed her reunion, met some nice people, ate some good food and drank some, well, you know. When you are an outsider, there’s no social pressure for you to behave, so you do.

At least I think I did. Oh, there was my little break-dancing demonstration, but I was treated and released at the Mayo Clinic, resplendent in a new hip brace. Did I mention the reunion was in Rochester?

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