Fifty has been in my thoughts a lot lately, for various reasons. Turning 50 doesn’t seem so long ago and I didn’t welcome it. Half a century! That seemed much older than it does now, but I’ve learned that we never feel as old as our years tell us we are.
The current reason for thinking about 50 was going to Steve’s 50th high school graduation reunion–the Class 0f 1962. Yep, 50 years since he finished high school. (OK, I’ll go ahead and admit that I graduated in 1962 also. Ugh.)
So we went to Bedford, Indiana, to two events. Friday night was the Shawswick High School Class of 1962 reunion. Saturday night was the reunion of all Shawswick graduates when Steve was the “guest speaker.” That might appear to include hundreds, but the high school closed due to consolidation in 1974.
And you might think the class of 62 would be among the oldest there. Not at all. There were tables for graduates from the thirties and forties! I kept looking at those people and wanting to go to them and say, “Do you realize you graduated before I was even BORN? And look at me!” Steve appreciated my holding back on that one.
It was interesting to see so many people about our age. I thought the men had aged better than the women, but I think that’s typical. But what I loved was the camaraderie! Many of the class had stayed in the area and knew each other as mature adults as well as teens. They all had fun teasing and telling stories on each other. I felt included as much as possible, but also excluded because I didn’t have those memories. They didn’t even have the same memories, but one story would trigger a story from someone else.
My favorite part was the second night when all of us were told to get seated. I was standing by Kay, Steve’s friend’s spouse whom I like a lot, and she insisted we sit by them. There was only one chair there, but Kay said, “Oh, there’s enough room for another chair! Just get one.” So Steve got another chair and sat. Then the person who had left her purse in the next seat returned. It was Steve’s old high school girlfriend! So he got to spend the evening sitting between the two of us. I loved it! Actually, so did he, after his initial discomfort wore off.
I learned some things that I hope to use at our reunion in the fall. One is that a social hour before the meal gives people time to visit and discover former classmates and start to catch up.
Another is that we don’t need entertainment. Sharing our memories is entertainment enough. Even without alcohol, there was boisterous laughter and lively interchange of ideas.
No one should have the mic for more than 3 minutes.
Talking about favorite or non-favorite teachers is very entertaining. (Ouch!)
Have ample food. We don’t want people to head for Sonic when they leave the party.
Include spouses. We all want to get to know that person our friend married.
Honor the military. We’d be lost without those dedicated men and women who serve our country.
Give prizes. Came the farthest, married the longest, most time in the military, most children, most grandchildren, most great-grandchildren. (That makes me feel REALLY old!) Those not retired, those retired the longest.
Lots of talk about who had changed the least garnered no unanimity. That’s too subjective to give a prize for, but it’s fun to talk about.
Have name tags with high school pictures and names in large print.
Have some structure to the evening, but keep turning it back to the people there.
Arrange the tables for conversation as much as possible. “Cafeteria” tables are not as conducive to conversation as round tables, if you have a choice.
Limit background noise. These people are beginning to lose their hearing.
Have enough light. These people may have trouble seeing.
Most of all, hug everyone. That was my advice to Steve before we went and it worked well for him. Even the folks I didn’t know well are going to get a big hug for surviving the 50 years and especially for showing up. I especially can’t wait to hug that guy that I always wished would ask me out and he never did. I even plan to ask his honest opinion of me in high school. I know what I think he thought of me and I’m curious to know if I’m right. I’ll know in a few months!