Thursday, September 08, 2016

The parting

Parting: the action of leaving or being separated from someone. "they exchanged a few words on parting" synonyms: farewell, leave-taking, goodbye, adieu, departure; valediction "an emotional parting" separation, breakup, split, divorce, rift, estrangement "they kept their parting quiet"
This is the year of my 40th high school reunion.  It took place in Boise in kind of two-parts. One gathering happened in the summer and the other last weekend. I didn't attend either.

One of the reasons was simply logistics. Neither time was really practical for me to take a trip to Boise. The other was a hybrid of philosophical and vindictive protest. Basically I was never invited.

By way of background, I did attend my ten and twenty-year high school reunions. Neither experience was overly pleasant. The ten-year reunion was very organized scheduled over a series of days. The initial gathering was at the Idaho State Prison (a historic building no longer used as a prison, but an ironic choice for a high school reunion). The event was so traumatic, I wrote a short story about it.

Basically, ten-years was not enough time to overcome all of the residual insecurities from the actual high school years. By the end of the reunion everyone had pretty much been relegated to the groups they'd been pigeonholed into back then. I left feeling every bit the ignored band geek that gone unnoticed by all but a few of my friends in the three years I'd gone to high school.

The 20-year reunion was less organized. And 20 years had begun to take its toll on how people looked. In retrospect everyone was about 38 years old. But I recall many had lost hair and ballooned to the extent that you couldn't recognize them unless you saw a photo of their 18-year old selves (including me).

I didn't go to the 30-year reunion. Though it had a Web page and I looked at the photos of the attendees. At 48, most really didn't resemble anyone in my yearbook. I don't really remember why I decided not to go. Maybe it was because I'd only been married a year and we were in the midst of adopting my daughter.

When 2016 rolled around it dawned on me that it would mark my 40th high school reunion. But I didn't give it much thought until summer rolled around and I hadn't heard anything about it. Not that I have stayed in touch with anyone from high school. But still, I had left my contact information on the old Web site for the 30th reunion.

So I Googled. That led me to a Facebook page dedicated to my high school class of 1976. And from that page I discovered there was some loose planning being done for the reunion. They had created the page and then reached out to our class to get them to join to learn about the reunion. No one had reached out to me, but I assumed that was because of my privacy settings on Facebook. So I joined the page along with 145 other members of my graduating class.

As I looked at the list of people following the page, I realized I only recognized a smattering of names. Looking at the photos posted, I could only recognized two or three people. And as I read the occasional postings I realized that of the 491 people who had graduated in my class none of the people I'd really known in high school were represented. All of the people posting were the people who were popular in high school They were the jocks and cheerleader types who had come from the more upper income families in Boise. And as near as I could tell, almost all of them had never left Boise.

It occurred to me that this wasn't a reunion for the class of 1976 from my high school, this was a reunion for a group of people who had occupied the perceived upper class of our school hierarchy. They had earned letterman jackets together, skied together, went to prom together and partied at keggers (Idaho term for parties with a keg) together.  None of them paid any attention to me or my friends in high school and it was obvious that if for some reason I did attend the reunion, they wouldn't have a clue who I was.

But still I lurked on the Facebook page and read their posts as the reunion events came and went. I paged through the photos they posted of gatherings at a local bar and then a football game they attended of our alma mater. I think I recognized two people.

There were lots of posts about how great it was to see each other and to catch up. They talked of how great their high school days had been and the lasting friendships they'd forged. Somebody posted a photo of his letterman jacket. Someone else posted a copy of the senior will. And for some reason all of this made me angry.

I was the drum major of the band. But you didn't get a letterman jacket for being in the band. You got to sit on the sidelines and perform like a trained monkey and be ignored as so much background noise. I wasn't called out in the senior wills, either. I like 90 percent of the other people in the class weren't in the limelight. We didn't have money to go skiing. Our parents couldn't afford to give us cars.

To many of us, high school was a time of anxiety. We wallowed in insecurity and wrote depressing poems. We agonized about our acne scarred faces and worried about rejection. We avoided the gangs of letterman jacket wearing jocks who mocked and bullied us. We didn't go to the prom. We learned to be invisible. Though many of us went off to college and successful jobs.  And many were like me and didn't think about high school other than having fantasies about going to our high school reunions and being recognized as a success and exorcising some of the ghosts who occasionally haunted us from that time in our life.

I thought about responding to some of the comments on Facebook. I thought about pointing out that their reunion wasn't really a reunion, that they had left out a majority of the class of 1976 when they planned the thing. But I knew that I'd sound petty and bitter just like this blog post sounds. And I knew that they would also like just shake their heads and ask themselves who the hell this Tim guy was because they didn't remember him from high school. And I knew they would be filled with righteous indignation (and rightfully so) that they had stepped up and planned things and if I thought I could have done a better job than I should have stepped up and done so.

So I just step back and remind myself that high school was just a blip on the radar of life (five percent of my life so far). It was 40 years ago. I haven't lived in Boise for 36 years. And although I had friends back in high school, none of them remained friends. So why do I even care about a reunion?

I think it is a throwback to a time when graduating from high school was a major thing and the highest level of education your average person would achieve. I think it is also a Hollywood perpetuated myth that every dog has its day. That those of us who were invisible in high school would one day show the world (and our former classmates) that we were somebody.

The 40th reunion is past. I have finally concluded that my fantasy of rewriting my high school history will never happen. So instead of thinking of this and any future reunions (how many more can there practically be), I'm going to think of them as partings and celebrate leaving high school behind.

I wonder if they have a t-shirt for high school partings.

1 comment:

Helen Baggott said...

1. I had to Google Boise.
2. All reunions should be like Grosse Pointe Blank