I attended my 40-year-high school class reunion last month in Monte Vista, my hometown in the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado. I had been anticipating this event for months, even more than for our 10-, 20-, or 30-year reunions, although each of these, too, was preceded by excitement, curiosity, and some trepidation.
After 10 years, I returned to the Valley for our reunion after having moved away for college and career. My memories of 12 years (plus Kindergarten) are fond, except for the angst-filled recollections of crying on the playground in grade school or waiting alone outside the doors in junior high until they were unlocked after lunch.
On the whole, though, at my 10th, I was eager to wander the halls of the high school and to visit the 9-hole gold course where had I worked in the summers. Our class picnic was at Chapman Park, across the street from the hospital where I had been born 27 years earlier. We cooed over our classmates’ children and mourned those who had already left us so soon.
I almost didn’t go to my 20th. I was newly single after 14 years, and only attended because my sister made the trip with me. I felt fragile, bereft and alone in my plight, the only one in such a sad situation. Of course, I was not, and I learned from my classmates about their own struggles and how to go forward on my own.
Our 30-year class reunion was more sparsely attended than the previous ones – only 23 of about 110 of us in 2004 compared to 34 in 1994. But for those of us who gathered for dinner and celebration, our 30th was about sharing: who had traveled the furthest to be there, who had the most children or grandchildren, who had visited the most countries. It may have been a genial competition, but it felt like a competition nevertheless.
Not so at our 40th … depending on the count from either Friday or Saturday nights, we had up to 33 classmates in attendance – I had predicted only 25. And, as my friend Jean said, “This was the most relaxing reunion we’ve had. We have all accomplished many things in our lives but there wasn’t any competition. Rather, we had sincere admiration for what others had done and who they became.”
My friend Janet added: “Wish I could have had fun like that 40 years ago and not worried what others thought of me. I’m already looking forward to our 50th.”
Even though much has changed – the hospital where I was born now houses law enforcement and the fields around my childhood home have sprouted with businesses – much has also stayed the same. I am still afraid of rodeo clowns, so my friends shielded me at the parade. I loved my classes, so my friend Jacque and I had coffee with our fifth-grade teacher, Miss Wood.
And, as my friend Patti said, “It was like time stood still and we were back in high school. Funniest to me was getting all of us settled down for the group picture! Still a totally fun bunch of kids, 40 years later.”
I agree … we are great and much, much more – we’re the class of ’74!