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50th Year Class Reunion. Should I Go?

Updated: May 6, 2023

“We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere.” – Tim McGraw

The invitation, an email, sent a quiver down my sciatic nerve right down to where a touch of neuropathy had settled under my right foot. Whatever nerve bundle still serves that foot was suddenly tickled. From there, the electrical impulse made its way back up my spine for a rendezvous with the amygdala, the part of my brain that stores all my fear memories. For some strange reason, it hasn’t decayed in the least- my nightmare life has never been better.

The invitation should not have come as a surprise. It’s a tradition that survivors of high school trauma gather every ten years or so and commiserate. It is thought cathartic to relive the stories of class bullies, study hall rumors, and first loves. To reexamine those clumsy years of coming of age when the equally unfiltered thought it necessary to poke fun at my fashionable striped bell bottoms that were possibly a bit too short and tight, resulting in a nickname of what one calls a castrated cat. Oh… the nightmares!

I reread the invitation. In a ‘party’ barn at a classmate’s farm. Hum. 20 bucks. Food trucks. 4 pm till the music stops…

Should I go?

The first question to answer is why? Having never been offended by being equated to a castrated cat, I cannot claim emotional damages. But I will claim a kittenish curiosity. Some of these classmates I have not seen for fifty years. I’m curious about what happened to my old friend John. He had told me some of his dreams when in high school. He was my first ideological antagonist in an era when we could have respectful disagreements. It’d be fun to find out what his story is. And does cute Helen still snort? And what of the turd who hated my guts and likely his own? And the handsome dude with thick glasses always boasting that the reason his sedan drug its rear was because the trunk was full of Miller beer. I heard he teaches Sunday school now. And those who took themselves too seriously and those who were too free. We had survived the 60’s, and now it was 1973.

And what happened to my fellow pranksters? The ones who took my little ‘58 Triumph Spitfire squeezed it through the high school's front entrance and parked it so that Mr. Terpstra’s class could not escape their classroom. And why was I the only one to get a ‘pink’ slip?

And whatever happened to Mr. Hof, teacher extraordinaire who we affectionately nicknamed ‘Jack’? The poor man had his teacher’s desk tipped over on a dare by a fellow classmate. ‘Pink’ slip.

With ‘reunion’ on my mind and perhaps having fallen into a daydream, I dreamt I got up from bed, walked past the mirror, and nearly code. The whitish hair, the gnarly nose hair, the gray thinning wiry kink on top, the paunch, the tilt, the loose rubbery neck, the skin, an oldish man of 68 years stares back as if backlit for an Alfred Hitchcock movie, highlighting everything that droops. “Please, God, when do we lose our vanity?” I can’t go like this.

Then it strikes me. I, too, have memories of some classmates as I last saw them fifty years ago. Young, virile, full of bounce and hopes. I had joined them in making big bold pronouncements of expected life accomplishments. We shared dreams of our coming worldly success. The big house, the Mercedes, the professional awards, and some notoriety. Oh, to be famous!

Should I rent a Rolls and a tux and ask Martha Stewart to cling to my side? It’s said she is still a sex symbol and a fan of truck food, and the paparazzi would add a certain electricity to the old barn. Maybe the classmate that just retired as a newspaper editor might wish to write just one more story. Surely it would be the biggest story of his career. But that charade has been done before and just might be too rich. If I attend, I will arrive in my Toyota with my 20 bucks, and with the mother of my children alongside to tell the truth.

So why would I go? Curiosity mostly. I want to see pictures of your families and coo, especially over your 40-something-year-old balding, graying sons who are making a big mess with your grandchildren. Of course, I want to see your grandchildren, those who win spelling bees and even those with tattoos, nose rings, and who identify as rabbit raisins. And I want to hear your stories, especially those that include a trip to the emergency room. Show me 27 pictures of your romantic Icelandic anniversary cruise and I’ll probably glaze over. Sorry.

In closing and turning to the serious, the grapevine has told me that some of my classmates have experienced pain and suffering. They have buried a spouse and perhaps even a child. Some have dealt with a difficult life-changing diagnosis. Some have challenging family situations. Some are battling addictions of one form or another. One or two have become wholly lost- no one knows if they are dead or alive.

“We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere.” – Tim McGraw

As this quote from Tim McGraw suggests, I’ve been carrying my classmates around like baggage for fifty years. In a sense, that is true. Little bits of memories float by and occasionally, we’ll grab one and chew on it for awhile. We think of those lost and consider their families. Some, for various reasons, will not attend- including one or two I would love to reconnect with. I wish they reconsider.

It is perhaps fair to say that life ended up being a bit more chaotic than that of our eighteen-year-old dreams. With every story unique but important, maybe we should meet and tell them best we can while we can.

I think I talked myself into going. Thanks for listening.

Class Reunion

by Elizabeth Lucas

It was my class reunion, and all through the house,

I checked in each mirror and begged my poor spouse

To say I looked great, that my chin wasn’t double,

And he lied through false teeth, just to stay out of trouble.

Said that ‘neath my thick glasses, my eyes hadn’t changed,

And I had the same figure, it was just a mite rearranged.

He said my skin was still silky, although looser in drape,

Not so much like smooth satin, but more like silk crepe.

I swallowed his words hook, sinker and line

And entered the banquet feeling just fine.

Somehow I’d expected my classmates to stay

As young as they were on that long-ago day

We’d hugged farewell hugs. But like me, through the years,

They’d added gray to their hair, or pounds to their rears.

But as we shared a few memories and retold some class jokes,

We were eighteen in spirit, though we looked like our folks.

We turned up hearing aid volumes and dimmed down the light,

Rolled back the years, and were young for the night.

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