Does the thought of a school reunion leave you feeling like hiding in a cupboard, never to reappear until the reunion is over? Or would you love to catch up with people who you knew during your school days?
School reunions, at any stage of life, can bring up long-forgotten memories, emotions and insecurities. They can also reunite long-lost friends and remind you of the good and the bad of your school days…and the role that your school life and friendships played in developing you into the person you are now.
From the perspective of 50 years all of these elements are magnified. It’s 50 years since a large proportion of my classmates left school at the end of Year 10.
Many of us grew up in the same country town and went through primary school together. Others joined us in high school, some as boarders. Several moved far away and have rarely returned to the old hometown, while others have remained part of the local community. Some have retained close friendships while others have not connected with school friends for many years. Five classmates have already passed away and were remembered fondly.
I suspect most people arrived at our first gathering with the same questions in their mind? Will people remember me? Will I recognise faces? Will anyone actually care that I attended the reunion?
From what I observed, those concerns lasted only seconds as people walked in to the first gathering and were embraced and surrounded by a gaggle of over-excited women. People were warm and welcoming, and genuinely excited to catch up with one another.
Most new conversations with people you haven’t seen for a long time start with the obvious “life” questions: Where do you live? Do you have children/grandchildren? Are you still working? What work do you/did you do?
But covering all that in a quick chat was frustrating. The conflict was to take enough time to really engage with one another versus moving on to another conversation.
Facebook connections were helpful because you already knew a bit about their lives. Important life matters like divorce, serious illness and deaths rarely made it into the conversation because of time.
We came together as a diverse group of 65-66 year old women who had lived full lives, experienced joy and heartbreak, love and loss, successes and failures, brilliant and disappointing careers. Yet our interactions were enhanced by the memory of the girls we were when we were at school together.
Over the weekend the old school friendship groups emerged, especially as people seated themselves for dinner, but there was a lovely atmosphere of inclusion so hopefully no-one felt left out.
Old photographs, stories and memories were shared and many photos taken. There was much laughter, and old photos were even re-enacted. The two photos at the bottom of this page show our 1963 netball team, with only one person missing from the 2018 version. Fortunately we didn’t have to remember how to play as I was no good at it even then!
A favorite teacher, not that much older than us, was able to attend the reunion and it was amazing to see how well she remembered our group. It was her task to look after that cohort of boarders for a couple of years, so she remembered them especially well. One of them took the microphone and regaled us with stories of their escapades and had the audience in fits of laughter.[Note to parents and teachers who read this blog post: “Naughty kids” at school grow up to be delightful fun adults with excellent stories to tell at reunions!]
Identical twins, Rosemary and Kathleen, started singing together in the last few years of high school and they have worked professionally as a duo since then. They kindly brought all their electronic gear to the reunion and performed for us…initially two songs….then an encore was demanded by the crowd…so they played for the rest of the night. What a treat that was! As soon as the live music started people were on their feet dancing bringing a whole new dimension to the party.
We are planning another reunion in 2 years time, to celebrate 50 years since the class of 1970 left school. We will hopefully have even more in attendance, including many who attended this reunion and others who were unable to be with us this time.