Celebrating a 45th high school reunion

If you’re lucky, you too may be able to attend your 45th high school reunion, as I did recently back in Michigan. It’ll be a self-selecting group of relatively healthy senior citizens who show up in the hospitality suite to tell funny stories about high school and life since.

High school is the universal American experience. It’s pretty cool to find yourself in the company of the students you knew way back then, many from as far back as junior high and elementary school, and to see with your own eyes how they turned out, and to fill in some of the blanks about who they really were and are now.

At our age, we have nothing left to prove, our insecurities and rivalries mostly left behind. But we still want to look our best, and we do! We talk about what’s happened to ourselves and to missing classmates.

After dinner we see a slideshow of all our deceased classmates. Wow, there’s a lot of them! Boys all seemed to comb their hair up back in the early 1960’s. Greeting cards are signed to send to classmates too ill to attend.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The group of classmates attending reunion has done okay considering the market crash and recession, many already retired with pensions after careers with a single company, often one of the big three automakers. I call them throwbacks, since that kind of career seems increasingly unlikely for younger people. In conversation we talk and hear about the challenges of aging parents and ourselves, marital histories and divorces, and struggling children, real life.

Michigan has been especially hard hit by the crash and recession, but after a tough few years has been celebrating the current successes of the Detroit Tigers, the Detroit Lions, and University of Michigan football.

The local reunion committee has done a great job making all the arrangements letting us get together. They are soliciting ideas for the 50th reunion, which everyone thinks should be a really big deal. One suggestion is that it might be a good idea to locate a venue with a lot of handicapped parking!

Looking back, I think our class and generation were pretty lucky. We experienced two historically unusual long periods of peace and prosperity. The first occurred during our formative years from when we started school after the Korean War until the Kennedy assassination in 1963. The second period of optimism and progress was during our adult lives from the end of the Cold War in 1989 until September 11, 2011.

The Vietnam War intervened of course, disrupting and changing many lives. Only one of our classmates is known to have died in combat in Vietnam. But other classmates returned from that war hurting.

While it seems that we live now in especially uncertain and tumultuous times, that’s probably true only in comparison to the two periods of peace and prosperity we experienced earlier. Maybe what we’re experiencing now is actually more normal, more typical of what previous generations experienced.

I look forward to seeing how this all turns out. I’m hopeful that our 50th reunion will be as enjoyable and memorable as our 45th. Thanks to everyone on the reunion committee for their hard work! We are the lucky ones from a great and diverse high school class!

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal