Thoughts from a 40th High School Reunion
Last evening I attended the 40th Reunion of my 1970 high school class of Jonathan Dayton High School in Springfield, NJ. About 30% of the class attended the event and I am so happy that I was there.
I remember attending the 10th and 20th reunions. While I had a nice time and saw several friends at those earlier reunions, I remember not feeling particular warmth to the class and mixed feelings about whether I should have gone at all. I have no such mixed feelings about having attended my 40th reunion.
Perhaps I am older, more mature and have a greater sense of my own mortality, which makes me far more appreciative of seeing people from my past. I saw a handful of close friends who I still see and talk to, others with whom I wish I had maintained relationships, and others yet with whom I had not been as friendly years ago. Regardless, with everyone I saw I felt that I share a bond of a special life experience in a small town in Union County in New Jersey. In my eyes each of the people I saw again are special and I now feel the warmth that was missing years ago at previous reunions. (The fact that the Yankees won 6-1 during my reunion shown on a TV in bar outside our room, eliminating the Twins in the ALDS, surely lifted my spirits at the reunion).
As with all reunions, it was sometimes hard to recognize people. We all age in different ways. However, after just a minute or two a smile, smirk, mannerism gave away their identity. Beyond the physical aging of the all my classmates, what also struck me is how life has changed so rapidly since high school. There was a simplicity and naivety to my classmates during the 60s despite the world that was changing around us. The Vietnam War would pierce that naivety. As a marketer, the days of the latter 60s were simple. Later in the 70s technology that seems so basic today such as ATMs, microwave ovens, and VCRs would radically change our lives, though the technological changes of that era pale in comparison to the rapid change today.
It was sad to see was the memorial to the ten classmates (of 250+) who had passed away since we graduated. While I am not sure that 4% mortality is unusual for a group of people who were largely born in 1952, it made me realize that the numbers no longer with us will be far larger at our next reunion.
Most all it made me appreciate my childhood and many friendships I had (and many I still have). There is no pretense with long time friends. They know too much about you and would be very glad to remind you of embarrassing moments if you acted too self important. Unlike most of my classmates, I had a traumatic experience during high school with my father’s passing during my sophomore year. Losing a parent made me feel different. However my childhood friendships made moving though a very difficult time a little bit easier.
As I look back at my childhood, I appreciate the lifelong friendships I made. Moreover, I appreciate my parents’ decision to move our family to Springfield, NJ in 1961. I’m so happy to have reconnected with my past again at the reunion. Maintaining relationships, particularly long distance ones, takes work, but the rewards far outweigh the effort.