Tuesday, May 25, 2010
High School Reunion Revisited
This weekend I attended my high school’s 60th Anniversary reunion in St. Lambert, Quebec. As opposed to my years’ 25th, this gathering included multiple generations. I applaud the organizers of such events for their devoted efforts and hard work—a job that is surely under-appreciated or, at the very least, under-acknowledged.
Our reunion weekend included golf tournaments, soft ball games, walking tours, meet & greets, dinners, barbeques and dances. Some graduating years organized special activities like go-carting and watching the semi-final NHL hockey game at a downtown bar (a depressing outcome for Habs’ fans).
Regardless of age or graduating year, each person arrived with their own package of pre-conceptions, expectations, and personal experiences. My brother, who graduated two years before me, looked forward to re-connecting with his high school buddies, many of whom he’d known since early childhood. As the kid sister, I knew them all in varying degrees. Tagging along with my brother, we started our weekend visiting with this group at the childhood home of one of ‘the boys.’
The polite salutations were soon followed by sketches of youthful misdemeanours and wild escapades, including playing pranks on students and teachers. I’m sure the tales were tempered for the sake of the three women in the audience, including the host’s mother. As a mother of two young teenage boys, I brace myself as our sons launch into their own high school experiences. But I am reassured by the fact that my brother and his friends have all grown into accomplished, good-mannered and genial middle-aged men.
For my part, the highlight was seeing my oldest childhood friend and her four siblings. They came from many directions, including Switzerland, to attend the CCHS reunion. We grew up four doors down from each other and the three eldest of the brood used to baby-sit my brother, sister, and me in the sixties.
Such sibling gatherings are rare and since this clan is like family to me, I was thrilled to partake in their own reunion. As we sat in Alison and her husband Jimmy’s dining room having brunch, I pictured their father at the head of the table, carving the roast as he had done many a Sunday dinner. The Bruce kids' deep sibling bond is a testament to their wonderful parents, who raised five very fine people.
At the school functions, only about twelve from my graduating class attended, which wasn’t too surprising given the fact that we’d had our own reunion in 2004. Re-connecting with friends from the other grades was a bonus, and we had the opportunity to make new acquaintances. A few teachers showed up too; when I called Mr. Praw by another teacher’s name, he was not impressed. “Mr Howe is dead,” he said, “and I don’t look anything like him!” Oops.
Walking along those infamous Chambly County HS corridors, we found them unchanged except for fresh-painted walls, new floors, and updated lockers. A state-of-the art gym had been built on one end of the school in addition to a renovated industrial-type kitchen and a new cafeteria. Still a relatively small school with 500 or so students, the intimate space suggested a positive learning environment—as was the case ‘back in the day.’
Speaking to some of my old classmates, I learned of a few recent divorces (including our high school sweethearts) and I felt bad for them all. But sometimes change breathes new life into unanticipated situations, and hopefully these folks will find renewed happiness along their separate paths. A few people spoke of early retirement, having done well in their careers, and others talked of mid-life career changes. Several of my classmates’ parents are deceased, a few after having barely retired. I’m grateful that my own parents are still full of verve and in relatively good health despite their senior years and minor ailments.
Before heading back to Toronto, my brother and I drove back to our old house and took a stroll through the neighbourhood. Looking at the past through a new lens, we both commented on how small the houses seemed and how short the distances had become. We snuck into our backyard and were pleased to see my mother’s forget-me-nots in full bloom.
High school reunions are not for everyone. One woman told a classmate that she had no interest in coming because she hated those years; why would she want to relive them? As for me, I didn’t love my high school years, nor did I deplore them. But they were five years of my life that were influenced by the people and culture around me and they contributed to the formation of my worldview. I guess I’ll always feel a little nostalgic for the people and experiences from my youth that played a part in my own life story.
Posted by Carla Sandrin at 10:19 AM