You're looking at a picture of some of the most beautiful 1971 graduates of Eureka High School. We're older than we were in 1971, obviously, but we are women who are so much more settled and mature and experienced than we were "back in the day". We're more of who we were meant to be. Each one of these old/new friends meant something to me in my childhood but we all were individuals and we all expressed ourselves differently as children/adolescents. We weren't all "best friends" through that entire time, but we all knew each other was there walking right beside us. Maybe the most contact I had with some was a "Hi" as we passed in the halls, or maybe we shared lockers or classes or something that kept us in each others' mini-worlds. We all knew each others' siblings, most of the parents and where everyone lived. In a small town it's not hard. It's like a big, extended family. I learned the hard way about how if you are doing something that your parents may not like, you better be prepared because they likely will know about it before you get home!
The beauties in the picture are: First row from left: Lynn, Sandy, Carol, Chris
Second row: Barb, Judy, Nancy, Trish
Third row: Chris, Madelyn, Donna, Dee, Rose, Linda, Moi
Not pictured: Karen
Last Wednesday, June 7 we all met at the home of Linda, back row to the right of me, and spent a few hours re-acquainting ourselves with each other. With sixteen in attendance, this took some time. As I looked around the room we all just kind of rotated from one small group to another eager to see pictures and find out more about our friends' lives. As we went around the table giving thumbnail sketches of what we've been doing during the past 40 years some common denominators stood out. We were all married and had spent a good portion of the time raising children, some more than others. I think the "Grandchildren Prize" went to two of us: Rosemary and Trish with 15 and 16!! The losers were a few of us with 0, but hopeful for more.
Another commentary on the times we live in was how much the word "stress" came up in each person's biography. There's so much of it around and it became obvious that it is an equal opportunity attacker: some got stress from jobs, others from their children or other family members, others had medical issues or family with medical needs. We all seemed to be involved (past or present) with our aging parents' lives whether directly caring for them or making sure they were being cared for. This is an area of stress but also a time where we feel blessed to be of service to them for once.
We bragged on our kids and grand-kids and husbands. We laughed about forgotten high school pranks. We were saddened by some of our high school issues that have come along with us. But mainly we laughed at ourselves then and now. We watched a You-Tube presentation of people just like us (now) doing calisthenics to the "Chicken Fat" song. I sat there with a blank expression on my face because I really had totally blocked out the fact that our P.E. teacher, Miss Jenkins had insisted we do exercises to that song every P.E. day. How could I forget? I'm still trying to figure that one out because everyone else was in stitches as they sang along to the song. I was probably in the very back row trying to do as little as possible. For that and other reasons I often got a "D" in P.E. but I really didn't care. We laughed at teachers past and wondered how we ever made it out. Some of us (me for instance) graduated in spite of putting a priority on having fun instead of making good grades. I still wish I had paid more attention but at least I did have a good time.
The most amazing thing to me is how very different we are in our lives now. We have varying sizes of families, different religions, vastly different professions or vocations, and life experiences that have taken us all over the place physically and emotionally. In spite of this I felt so much love that afternoon. We truly came together that day as women who loved each other and our shared past. There really is nothing like being in a room where there is so much commonality. It's also amazing at how much we remember when we all get together like that. It's also interesting how even though we were all at the same school at the same time, we each have a unique story.
"I was so shy."
"I was loud to cover up my lack of self-confidence."
"I was just trying to make it without being noticed."
"I tried to be friends with everybody."
"I was scared."
I'm sure there were many unspoken stories, too. Ones that we were too painful to share. I had some so others probably did, too. Stuff that I had painfully worked out over the years, but that came up again when I was back in High School mode. The good thing to know is that whatever ghosts we carry from that time can't hurt us anymore. Now we know that we have reached the point where we can have such wonderful times of getting together. I absolutely loved that day and could have stayed visiting with everyone for hours into the evening.
I guess I have to make a disclaimer: This entire event would not have been possible without the assistance of Facebook. As much as I hate giving social media THAT much power it it true. It all started last summer when our 40th class reunion was being planned. An FB event page was set up so we could all RSVP and get re-acquainted ahead of time. I had never been too excited about reunions because (Confession Time) I would usually say "hello" to most everyone and then sit at a table with my "best buds" from school and never seek anyone else out. I don't know why I did this. I hope it's not because I was a snob or something like that. I think part of it was that I just didn't know what to say to people that I hadn't been close to in high school. I'm not proud of that but there it is. For whatever reason, that's what reunions had come to mean to me and they never got me very excited, even though I attended a few. For whatever reason, this year Dave and I decided to attend out 40th Reunions--his in Kansas and mine in Illinois. I anxiously went to the FB page and saw several "old" friends there and even though they hadn't been my "best buds" in HS, they were so nice and seemed to be excited that I was coming. I was so touched by their openness and caring that I immediately had several new reasons to attend the reunion. Becoming re-acquainted with Carol and Linda whom I have known since before Kindergarten made me so happy! I told people about this and how happy it made me feel. I wasn't even sure they still knew me and now I had some new friends!! Donna, Lynn, Chris, Dee -- I hate to start naming names because I seem to be more forgetful these days--hmmm...but suffice it to say, I have been abundantly blessed since the day I rediscovered all of you! It has enriched my life tremendously.
About three weeks before the EHS Reunion, after the plane tickets had been purchased, I had an accident at home that really clipped my wings. The trip had to be postponed indefinitely. What I had gained, though was this whole new group of friends who helped see me through the grueling months of pain and recovery. I'd hear encouraging words from all over the place just when I needed them. Through this time I also became acquainted with my BFF's Kate and Nancy. We helped each other through school with a friendship that has stood the test of time and have recently picked up exactly where we left off.
So, before I start to cry, I just want to say thank you to Carol and Linda for instigating this mini-reunion. It ALMOST made my journey of the past 9+ months worth it! I hope we all stay in touch. To the amazing women in the picture I also want to thank you for being my friend then and now. You are each very important to me and I hope we meet again and again!