Monday, August 9, 2010

No Friends Like Old Friends

No Friends Like Old Friends

So there they were….about one hundred of them. Many no longer resembled those friends and acquaintances that I had known as a teenager, but they were there…and what a glorious bunch they were! They were my classmates from my 1960 high school graduation class.

Some of them still resembled the emotional and behavioral beings that I had known 50 years ago, but something was marvelously different. Each, in their own unique way had been transformed by a lifetime of events largely unknown to me.

Our times together were at an informal gathering the evening before our dinner at a bar and bowling alley which was popular in our home town of St. Joseph, Michigan in the 1960′s. The next day we enjoyed a luncheon at our high school and a tour through halls that we had not seen for 50 years. We were proud to be the first class to graduate from our then brand new high school. The city of St. Joseph had done a great job of expanding and maintaining this impressive facility. As we toured our school many visions long forgotten were instantaneously familiar. This was an object lesson in the psychology of human memory. Finally, there was the dinner with an evening program full of wonderful reminiscences. All arranged by a small corps of loyal and caring classmates who had dutifully planned and executed similar reunions, nearly every five years since our graduation.

But this was our 50th reunion and it eclipsed all of the others. It was a magical time and it was exclusively comprised of well seasoned and aged human beings who had become some of the best specimens that humanity can achieve. A few formerly clicky and aloof teen girls were now kind and thoughtful women who went out of their way to reach out to former Geeks and wallflowers. The lofty athletic heros, from one-half a century ago, warmly welcomed and conversed with the guys who had never gained high status and popularity in high school. Some of the men and women who were formerly shy, quiet and retiring were smiling, laughing, and talking with classmates they may never have spoken to in high school. Everyone treated everyone with remarkable kindness and everyone appeared to give and to receive an uncommon measure of love and respect.

These people were the survivors of our class. Sadly, 27 of our former classmates were known to have died during the intervening years. We were haunted by their memories as each of their names were read aloud, with caring and respect.

I believe that we were each aware that everyone there had somehow managed to overcome life’s disappointments, sorrows, and personal tragedies. More importantly, they had found their way back through time, to the birth-place of their former insecurities and the beginning of their adult adventures, trials and tribulations. And there they were: Each with a grace, dignity, and kindness which all-to-often comes only with the passage and survival of countless events in time.

These are my lasting memories of my 50th high school class reunion.

But there was one more. It was the deafening roar, stronger than ever before, of the proud and ferocious athletic chant of the St. Joseph High School Fighting Bears. It was a roar that had built within this group of survivors for five decades and it rattled the walls and windows and sent spirits soaring as never before! It was a perfect way to end a surreal and precious evening with loved ones from a distant past.

I hope you will consider attending your next reunion. It may be one of the most heartwarming events of your life.

Tom Mawhinney, 8/7/10
St. Joseph High School Class of 1960

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