The Fastest 50 Years
Five Decades Seem Like Five Seconds When
You Attend Your 50th Year High School Reunion
An internet search for quotes about high school reunions reveals about an equal number of those that wax mistily poetic about the wonderful memories you'll relive:
"Life is made up of moments, and our reunion is a chance to relive those moments with the people who were there." -- Anonymous
... as well as those with a more cynical take:
"I can't put this delicately: Everyone goes to their high school reunion wanting to see who they 'beat.' " -- Megyn Price, "Grounded For Life" actress
The first thing to understand is that high school reunions aren't for everybody. The high school years dole out a dizzying array of experiences to teenagers trying their best, with varying degrees of confidence, to navigate through schoolwork, relationships, hormones, and career choices. By the time graduation rolls around -- if they ever graduate at all -- they will either have had a generally positive ride they will fondly remember, or they will be increasingly grateful for every year they can put between them and the trauma they went through.
My four years at Westminster High School in Westminster, MD, between 1969 and 1973 were probably about as typical as a middle-class kid could have. I met enough good people and had enough pleasant experiences to think that the reunions starting to come around 10 years later might be kind of fun to attend. I wound up attending WHS's 10th, 30th, 35th, and 40th and 45th year reunions in the ensuing years.
This year marked the 50th year since we graduated in June of 1973, and planning for our 50th reunion began early in 2022. With retirement last October came the time to actually contribute meaningfully to the reunion planning committee, on which I served with about a dozen other classmates. I was honored when the committee asked if I could be official event photographer, and also serve as the emcee for the main dinner event. The culmination of our efforts was this past weekend, Oct. 13-15, with a series of events that brought about 100 of our class of 405 back to Westminster.
When first sending information out to classmates inviting them to attend this momentous event in our class's history, I quoted Indonesian author Toba Beta, who said, "Reunions reveal friendship potential that hasn't yet emerged in the past." I then stated that the reunions I had attended earlier gave me the precious opportunity not only to rekindle some old friendships that had gone dormant for various reasons (life, mostly), but to find new ones in classmates whose names I had known since we graduated, but I had never really come to know until decades later.
For me, my 50th year high school reunion achieved all of that ... and more. As I met, talked with and photographed people I knew, but had not really known, since my high school days, I never saw 50 years flash by so quickly. I studied faces to see if lines and smiles, or the lack of them, could tell the story of their lives. I saw friendships first forged between football players on the gridiron still as strong today as they completed a round of golf. I saw hugs exchanged and plenty of laughter at the main dinner event. I heard bewilderment and hurt. I reminded one classmate I had not seen since high school of a scene we did in drama class in which we were required to kiss. She seemed uncomfortable, and stiffly ended the conversation by wishing me a good time at the party. We took somber note of the 100 of us who had died too young, and momentarily thanked our lucky stars that we were still here to enjoy this party.
And, as Toba Beta said, I had the pleasure of getting to know for the first time one classmate who thankfully took the initiative to engage me in a conversation that wound up lasting 45 minutes, and ended with a promise to see each other again.
It was a well executed reunion. When it was done, I considered myself one of the lucky ones: I was healthy enough to attend; I rekindled and strengthened the friendships I've kept with about a dozen or so classmates over the years while finding a few new ones; I confirmed again that the teen love I shared with my high school sweetheart never really died, and that I even gained a new friend in her understanding husband; and I had a precious opportunity to deliver a greeting card to our beloved music teacher, now 94 years old, to let him know how much we missed him attending along with the seven other teachers we had at the reunion.
We spent a year and half planning it. In three days, it was over, sending classmates home with a whole new set of memories. It went very quickly.
Just like the last 50 years.