But Keep the Old

The Northrop High School Class of 1983 just celebrated 40 years with a class reunion, and this was the first one I attended in all those 40 years. With a school tour and football game on Friday night and the reunion on Saturday, the weekend turned out to be more fun than I could have imagined. Now I hope to attend every reunion going forward.

I went this year because Kathy, my best friend since kindergarten, was on the planning committee, and she encouraged me to come. Before Kathy went to our 35th (her first), I never even knew we were having reunions. Even if I knew about them, I doubt that I would have gone. I would have felt awkward. I only played in the band for two years, and I sat on the bench for three basketball seasons. Kathy was the only friend I kept up with after graduation and technically she was my friend from kindergarten, not high school. I was certain only popular kids went to reunions. That was not me.

After graduation, I went the following route: four years of undergraduate school, then straight to graduate school, followed by an immediate move to Georgia for my first and only teaching job where I taught for 30 years. In 40 years, I have never missed a summer visit back to my hometown, so it would not have been difficult to coordinate the timing of a family visit with a class reunion, as I did this year. Until a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t think anyone would remember me and I didn’t think I would remember many of them either. As a friend of my sister’s once said, “I could not have been wronger!”

When Kathy and I walked into Northrop on Friday afternoon to gather for a tour of our newly remodeled high school, I immediately recognized two friends and remembered several others once they told me their names. When I saw my fellow basketball players, it was as though only a few years had passed. We recognized each other right away. The bond was still there.

After walking the halls of our alma mater, the group walked out to the football stadium to watch the current Northrop football team play our archrivals. For half the game, I sat with the basketball players. We talked about our injuries and careers and exchanged phone numbers, so we would not have to wait another 40 years to talk to each other again. It felt good to be back. My teammates made me feel like I belonged. They acted like I was one of them, not just the benchwarmer.

Saturday night, the official reunion night, went by too quickly. Although there were only 100 out of 600 of us there, the night was too short to talk with everyone. My apologies to my classmates I did not get to talk with. I did manage to talk with my kindergarten boyfriend about our playground wedding, neighborhood pals about our standard “come home when the streetlights come on” rule, and elementary friends who went to the new school in fourth grade and left me behind. Honest to goodness, I remember thinking I could convince my mom to move because all my friends were going to the new elementary school. The reunion ended with lots of pictures, glad-you-came-hugs and “let’s keep in touch” comments.

Now that I have had time to reflect, I’m so thankful I attended. It was fun to reminisce and catch up with old friends. But it makes me think about our classmates who did not come. If it hadn’t been for Kathy, I too would not have been there. For those who did not come or those of you who have skipped your reunions, I understand. I was in that “no one would remember me” camp until I showed up and was received with open arms. To you who didn’t come, we missed you. I truly hope you will make it to our 45th. To those of you who came, thanks for making me feel welcome. And to the planning committee, thank you for all your efforts to keep this class of ’83 together.

Reuniting with my classmates made my heart feel good. I encourage you to go to your reunions and be a Kathy—bring someone else along too. That’s what friends do. A dozen of our classmates were on the memorial wall. Life is short. We do not know what tomorrow will bring. Tag up with old friends. As the ole song goes, make new friends but keep the old.

Have thoughts on reunions? Why have you gone or not gone? Will you go to your next one? Please comment below.