On a chilly Saturday one month ago I attended a 50th anniversary reunion at my old High School - Crestwood - in Peterborough. This is not something I would have sought out to attend but with a prompting from some old acquaintances who found me via Facebook, I decided to face the music. I think the advertising for this event was only by word of mouth and social media - how do you reach 16,000 people??
The months leading up to this event were fraught with fruitless diets and tepid imaginings. Perhaps it would go like this:
Nanci, Deb and Carol haven't seen each other since High School.They rediscover each other via a reunion website and arrange to meet for lunch in a wine bar. Nanci arrives first, wearing a purple Versace. She orders a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Deb arrives shortly afterward, in gray Chanel. After the required ritualized kisses she joins Nanci in a glass of wine.Then Carol walks in, wearing a faded old tee-shirt, blue jeans and boots. She too shares the wine.
Nanci explains that after leaving high school and graduating from Princeton in Classics, she met and married Arthur, with whom she has a beautiful daughter. Arthur is a partner in one of New York 's leading law firms. They live in a 4000 sq ft co-op on Fifth Avenue, where Amber, the daughter, attends drama school. They have a second home in Phoenix .
Deb relates that she graduated from Harvard Med School and became a surgeon. Her husband, Art, is a leading Wall Street investment banker. They live in Southampton on Long Island and have a second home in Naples , Florida .
Carol explains that she left school at 17 and ran off with her boyfriend, Bill. They run a tropical bird park in Colorado and grow their own vegetables. Bill can stand five parrots, side by side, on his penis.
Halfway down the third bottle of wine and several hours later, Nanci blurts out that her husband is really a cashier at Wal-Mart. They live in a small apartment in Brooklyn and have a travel trailer parked at a nearby storage facility.
Deb, chastened and encouraged by her old friend's honesty, explains that she and Art are both nurses' aides in a retirement home. They live in Jersey City and take vacation camping trips to Alabama .
Carol admits that the fifth parrot has to stand on one leg.
It was weird driving out to the high school with memories of bus accidents and icy hills, old boyfriends and forgotten streets. We were given lanyards to wear around our necks with our Grade 13 picture and name on the card. Then you went around unobtrusively staring at people and glancing up and down at their current features and the photos to sort out who they were. Of course I hadn’t aged a bit.
My reflections are threefold:
First I was impressed with the quality of the building. Check this link to see photos of the school. After 50 years I was expecting the building to be old and somewhat dilapidated. In fact it was bright and cheery, almost exactly as I remembered it. We watched some old timers play volleyball in the gym and I took a walk through the dressing room - nothing had changed. I learned that the Dysarts, who were head of the boys and girls phys ed department when I attended, have now both passed away from cancer. The central lobby still has the outside area and an unopened time capsule was displayed there. This capsule was buried at the 25th reunion and would be opened later in the day. We also had some photos taken with a few old teachers.
I was surprised by the giant hug my old physics teacher gave me. We gave Mr Maughn a very hard time as he was a young and handsome new teacher. Physics and I had difficulties but I really wanted to do well. He commented that I was a very keen student and asked him lots of questions. My old history teacher was also there and his comment was that I wrote a lot. Yep. I got 100% in Grade 11 history. Told him that I wrote down everything I knew and in there somewhere was the answer.
Found my name up on the Laureate Scholar board and took this photo as proof for my kids. I also received a trophy for Head Girl in Grade 13 so that was noted as well. All this to make my Daddy proud. Oh to go back to those days. We had so much fun.
As a second reflection, the school was set up with five decade rooms so you were to check in there to hook up with peers. Each room had paraphernalia from the time period - old sweaters and gym outfits, newspaper clippings, year books and a slide show. One clipping showed my sister folk singing with Simonne Eccles. Another showed me at a Latin banquet. You will notice that the tartan in the background of the photo below is the 1967 centennial plaid.
I kept thinking that I was in the wrong room because everyone looked so old!!! We attended a BBQ outside for lunch and just walked around the school chatting with people. We had booked a room in the downtown holiday inn so had drinks with an old friend there before attending the Gala evening event which was held at the Evinrude Centre. Five different restaurants catered the event and people wandered from one to the other for a grazing and chatting meal. There was some music and a few awards given out. The first year class of 1963 was called to the front for photos as we were the inaugural year and the time capsule was opened.
Check this link to see photos from the decade room and the Gala evening event.
My final reflection is about the people who attended. It was quite a happy time and interesting to see the old stomping grounds and people you’d thought you’d forgotten!!!
Everyone had such animated expressions on their faces – obviously people there who had fond memories of those high school days. People would come up and tell you stories about yourself that you had long forgotten. One girl took me aside and told me that I had insisted on plucking her eye brows one day. It was so strange seeing young people in old faces. After a double take the images faded into one and you remembered that long lost smile, that long lost story, that long lost dream. People were very friendly and outgoing. You felt part of something bigger than yourself. You felt part of the ages, part of history, part of youth, part of life. You looked back with the sad wisdom of maturity and laughed at the years and the tears and the joys and the circle of life.
Click this link to see photos of old friends. I took several of these for my brother who lives in Boston and did not attend as he said he would not see anyone he knew.... so check these out Kevin.
Arthur attended with me and seemed to enjoy himself inspite of just being a spouse!!! Some of us have decided to get together later in the summer at at cottage and perhaps this will become a same time next year thing. I came home with a good feeling, knowing you can't go back, but reaffirming that the now can be celebrated wherever we are in life. I'm also looking around for that fifth parrot.