Reunion Reflections

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And the class of ’57 had its dreams./We all thought we’d change the world with our great work and deeds./Or maybe we just thought the world would change to fit our needs./The class of ’57 had its dreams.” – “Class of ’57” by the Statler Brothers

My mom, a Chelsea High School alum like me, has been gone for more than a decade now, so I hope it’s all right to reveal a secret ritual we participated in for years.

Before every one of the annual Chelsea Alumni Association Banquets we attended, I would visit her house and she would fix us both a substantial vodka and 7UP with a lime wedge. Thus fortified for the event, we would head off to the school cafeteria to mingle once again with scores of our fellow CHS graduates, many of whom, I suspect, had indulged in a similar bit of glass-lifting.

Is there anything that pulls you in as many emotional directions as a high school reunion? It’s not just the mixed feelings always engendered by nostalgia, that homesick-like longing for the past that’s not only both sweet and sad, but also wistful and ultimately, heartbreakingly futile. While a reunion celebrates the threads that will always bind us to our old classmates, it can also be a relentless reminder of just how old those classmates are getting, a process that directly involves us.

The realization of time’s passing seems especially stark when someone shows up whom you haven’t seen for years, and their wrinkles and sags and age blemishes provide an unwelcome reflection of yourself. If nothing else, a reunion shows you just exactly what years of gravity can do to human features, including, of course, your own.

In the early ’90s, while covering country music for the Tulsa World, I got into a backstage discussion with Duncan Cameron, guitarist for the group Sawyer Brown. He’d recently gone to one of his class reunions for the first time in a long time, and, like a lot of people who aren’t regular attendees, he’d found it to be kind of weird. He thought that feeling had to do with the fact that he was in the public eye and needed to keep up appearances, so he looked different from his old running buddies, who’d let themselves age naturally.

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