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My First Reunion

August 5, 2011

A week from today, I will head to my home town for my 30-year high school reunion. Until now, I have not had any desire or inclination to show up at one of these events. Apart from the inquiry of a long-lost classmate a few years ago, I am not sure what kind of motivation is prompting me to join the festivities. I have arbitrarily assigned motives. Not sure how valid they are. I am ready to test them, though, on the fields of high school nostalgia.

Wondering how to prepare, emotionally and otherwise. I will not bring a padded resume, a spouse nor date, nor a fancy car. I will bring myself and my son and maybe a few memories—just enough to facilitate filling dead air in the middle of a gathering.

I don’t know if it is being on the younger side of a threshold peering into middle age, but I have only minimal compulsions to impress or care about what anyone will think of me. Or maybe I just think that I am good enough as I am; or maybe my security comes in the hope that, in the next week and a half, I will not gain any more weight, not lose many more hairs and keep only the gray ones peaking out of the corners of my head.

But the biggest rationalized motivation, as I have told a lot of you, is that I am going back to my high school, not to chase fond memories or reconnect with old friends. I am going back to see how old I really am.

I look in the mirror every day. I see changes, but they are so gradual, do I notice the difference? Like when seeing my son after a week of vacation with his mother, he seems taller—because he is; but even clothes that no longer fit and a child that now fits into a men’s size 9 shoe seem not to bring the message home as strongly as the difference before trip and after trip.

My current friends who are my age have children graduating college, are grandparents, have been widowed, and have reached other milestones that we could not imagine in the faces of our old class mates, peering from the pages of our old yearbooks.

As the time approaches, I am sure that there will be moments of a persistent low-grade nervous excitement or a little bit of dread. Both will be triggered by many aspects of my time in the halls and on the fields of that school. Even more will be carried by the prospect of running into the women on whom I once had school boy crushes.

I am not worried that anyone will realize that I was not as good of a student as they though I was, not as big of a hockey star as it felt like in that long-lost small world, and not worried that the kindness and niceness that I experienced from several of my class mates will likely fail to translate into the close intimate friendships that seemed impossible even then.

When I look back on the the crap I learned in high school,” I still can’t figure out what that was. Being at the Catholic high school, I learned that being a Baptist, I knew my Bible better than most of my Catholic classmates. I learned that Catholics were not the heathens that they were made out to be by some Baptists—even if they worshiped statues and did penance over grace for forgiveness. I learned a fight song that played for us each time me and my hockey teammates hit the ice or the football team took the field:

Fight, fight Crusaders

Big, brave and bold

Towering to the sky

Your banners, blue and gold

So onward to victory

Fight for your fame

With heads held high

Your battle’s cry

Hey, team win this game!

C-R-U, S-A-D-E-R

Crusaders, Crusaders, rah rah rah!

(I remember one of my Baptist friends questioning the wisdom of nicknaming the school after the Crusades, not a pretty piece of Catholic church history, followed by noting the irony of our church’s association with Campus CRUSADE for Christ.)

Maybe going back, I will learn something. Maybe I will remember things I learned but had forgotten. Maybe I will remember enough names and faces as to not be too embarrassed. I know I will be remembered.

I will be easily remembered not so much for who I am or was then as much for the fact that I was the only black kid in the school. In years past, I worried that some black guy would show up and be mistaken for me. I then realized that I did not really care, but felt sorry for the man who might have fallen into that discomfort zone. This time, it’s me, the real thing.

And maybe my old classmates and I will learn a new perspective on that reality, that there was a black kid in the school and what that meant for him and for the rest of the school community, the good and the bad, the easy and hard, and the stuff that we are still learning today.

In the mean time, I will work on comfort zones, both for myself and for whomever I run into. (It will be better if I remember everyone’s name.) I will wear a shirt to the picnic that I wore during my days at the school. (I don’t think anyone will remember it.) I hope the reunion will be interesting. I hope it will be fun. I will pretend that I’m really not that old.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. August 5, 2011 1:09 pm

    You are a braver person than I. Here’s to a great reunion!

  2. ken iosso permalink
    August 5, 2011 1:23 pm

    Cool and real as always, Clarence. But you left out the number one reason you’re going: as research for your heavily-read blog:)

    And if you can still fit in a shirt from high school, I’m fairly sure you’re holding up better than most of your high school crushes.

    What I’ve found almost 30 years since I graduated from high school is that in the face of life, of jobs and unemployment, of grief and joy, of love and broken hearts, of insurance and mortgages and children, the differences that separated us in high school, whether we were nerds or jocks or actors or potheads, melt away to nothing.

    And I’ve found that some of those folks that slightly intrigued me in high school actually were really interesting people. My advice, though you asked for none – is to go to have a good time and really – to meet some people that you share some cool things in common for almost the first time. So smile and enjoy it. Good luck!

    • August 5, 2011 1:31 pm

      Thanks for the great thoughts, Ken. Great thoughts, and, even though I did not say so, I am looking for advice. Not that any is needed, but it is full of perspective that might enhance the experience.

      One of the interesting things is that i changed high schools half way through. I had a lot more people who would talk to me at the new school, the one from which I graduated and to which I will return in a week. I was quite lonely at the first school. Not quite unlonely at the second, but it was so much nicer.

      The funny thing is, especially if you look at my Facebook “friends,” I have one who is from my graduating class at the new school, Cathedral. I actually have more from my old school, some of them being “popular” kids. Odd. Maybe that will change.

      I will enjoy myself, even if somehow someone makes it a dud. I’m never bored. i can always find something interesting.

  3. Jennifer Porwit permalink
    August 5, 2011 6:36 pm

    I love going to my high school reunions (my 50th this summer) because now I am not afraid to talk to people (esp the guys). Even though there were only 77 in my graduating class there were many that I never spoke to in four years of high school. One of the highlights of this summer’s reunion was seeing again and thanking the girl (now grandmother) who was the first person to speak to me when I started high school. Now I really know the truth of the old saying “Too soon old, too late smart.”


    • August 5, 2011 7:01 pm


      I was talking Tuesday to a friend who is about 20 years ahead of me on the reunion track. She told a story of going to her reunion for a class of 24. One woman could hardly remember the names and faces of most of her classmates, even at her 20th reunion, but remembered her. She is a psychologist by trade and knew her as a girl, so was keyed into wondering what things were like at her home–that this was not just a physiological phenomenon of memory loss. I have looked at my yearbook, but I am not sure it will help my memory enough to keep me from embarrassment. No one will have trouble remembering me. So much for being a fly on the wall.

      We had 150 in our class, 1981 and I hope that I, too, will find someone there dear enough in those days to whom to say thanks. I never had a close friend in high school, but when I changed schools half way through, and was more than a little scared at the prospect of jumping into the pool of who-knew-what, there were a hand full of girls who were much nicer than the boys and kept me from doing foolish things like walking into the teachers’ lounge or getting lost on my way to history class. I think that is one of the reasons why most of my friends are women today and why I can, at times, be one of the girls.

      I wish I could have been there when you reunited with the kind woman/girl. Fly on the wall. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. August 8, 2011 7:50 am

    i went to my first class reunion about 6 mos. ago. it was fun in ways i couldn’t have anticipated. hope you have fun 😉

  5. Joe permalink
    August 9, 2011 9:45 am

    Good plan to review the yearbook beforehand — I wish I had done that at the 10- and 20-year marks. (I missed my 30th last month — just didn’t feel like it. Went for a long bike ride instead. And 40 will come all too quickly.)

    There were a few embarassing exchanges at those events that involved an awkward pause by me, followed by “Uh . . . I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name,” or the softer, “you’re going to have to help me out. It’s been a lot of years.”

    But I did find that old differences had softened. And the girls were holding up much better than the boys.

    • August 9, 2011 9:57 am

      I am relying on the fact that it has been 30 years to give me a bit of grace in not recognizing everyone. We have been out of high school almost twice as long as the years we’d achieved when we were in high school. I hope the print on the name tags is HUGE.


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