I'm Still Here!

In the days of my youth, 
I was told what it means to be a man, 
Now I've reached that age, 
I've tried to do all those things the best I can.                       Led Zeppelin

The first time I remember hearing that song, I was sitting in the front seat of a 1969, marine blue, Chevy Chevelle SS396 4bbl, in the bicentennial summer of 1976.  It was after dark, and we were parked outside the prestigious Cranbrook Academy waiting for some friends, trying to look inconspicuous.

The plan for the evening,  was to slip through the security gate and onto the school property, for a midnight swim in a pond known as the Jonah.  The anticipation of committing an act I could be caught and prosecuted for, must have been weighing heavily on my mind at the time, because I remember every detail of the time spent waiting in that car.  

The guy behind the wheel was a college sophomore, who I'd had a crush on since my first year of high school.  Having finally caught his attention two years later, I was anxious for him to think I was cool, so went along with the evening's high jinx in spite of my own good judgement and elevated stress level.

This weekend, I accompanied my partner in crime, to his thirty-five year, high school class reunion in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.  To say we had a good time, would be an understatement.   

I can't say I was nervous about attending the reunion.  As a spouse, I wasn't expected to do much more than sit at a table with a smile on my face pretending not to be too bored.  But, caring about my husband as I do, I wanted to make a good impression and be as supportive as possible.  

I had socialized with Rick's circle of high school friends a few times during his college years and after, but hadn't seen most of them for almost thirty years.  I remembered them as articulate, good looking and well mannered.  Rick has fond memories of their time spent together as teens, and seemed confident that the trip to Detroit would be worthwhile.  I really had no idea what to expect.

When I was a high school sophomore and he a senior, fear and intimidation were the feelings I most closely associated with the members of my husband's class.  The girls all looked like beauty queens and the boys, especially the athletes, like giants.  I walked through the halls and lunchroom, terrified of calling negative attention to myself for fear of being laughed at and branded a loser.  It seemed at the time, that the distance in our ages was much greater than two years, and maybe from a maturity standpoint, it was.  

By age fifty, one would assume that most people have grown up to be what they were destined to become, and are comfortable in their own skin.  Most have seen their children grown and are embarking upon the me-time of life, when stress levels decline and contentment settles in.  A seemingly perfect time to meet and greet old friends.

We attended a casual get-together at a local eatery the evening before the official reunion, which served as an ice-breaker for those who hadn't seen their classmates in some time.  The gathering place was dimly lit which offered an easy excuse when an old friend was not easily recognized.  Blame it on the lighting, not the gray hair or the extra twenty-five pounds!  Meeting a few folks the night before, whet our appetite for the main event.  

Perhaps it was the inclusive tone established by the organizers of the reunion beforehand, that set the standard for the weekend. Classmates were genuinely happy to see each other, and it didn't seem to matter one bit, whether or not they'd belonged to the same social clique in high school thirty-five years before.  Everybody hugged or shook hands.  The camaraderie they felt for each other was genuine.

Very few people talked about what college degrees they'd attained, mountains they'd climbed, or job titles they'd earned.  They were collectively humble and self-effacing.  There was a general understanding, that nobody leads a perfect life and into each, a little rain must fall, but nobody appeared morose or pathetic.  The atmosphere throughout the weekend was light-hearted and friendly.
On a couple of occasions, I was told that I was brave for accompanying my husband to his reunion, where he was bound to run into old girlfriends and dance dates.  I thought this was particularly silly, for if after thirty-five years, you aren't able to put aside petty jealousy, you've got bigger problems.  The same goes for grudges and rivalries.

I think I had as good a time at his reunion, as my husband did, for I thoroughly enjoyed watching him be a kid again.  The joy and laughter that resounded through the ballroom, was music to my ears, especially during hard economic times, when so many find so little to laugh about.  I particularly enjoyed spending some extended time with Rick's friends, which provided me with an opportunity to understand why he remembered them as fondly as he did.

Some people denigrate class reunions and make excuses for not attending by saying they've moved on or don't like looking back.  But, what's wrong with celebrating the innocence of our youth with the very people that lived it?  For all, there were both good times, and bad times, but the bad times are often what we remember most.  Sometimes, a few minutes of laughter with an old friend is all that's required to put life into perspective.  When we recount tales of lost loves, dropped footballs, failed exams, and social humiliation, we find our stories aren't all that unique, and that makes us feel better about ourselves.

As the memorial to those classmates that have perished reminded us, a reunion isn't just about thinning hair and thickening waistlines, its about celebrating life.  Its about coming together with those we left the nest with, and saying, "Look at me! I made it!  I'm still here!"


  1. Karen - I loved meeting you at the reunion (oh, and it was great to see you too, Rick :)... You are clearly a very fun person and a gifted writer. You have characterized the dynamics of the reunion event perfectly!

    It was really interesting to talk with you about your "process" (I actually have 2 blog posts hanging over my head right now and have to focus somehow ... and it's too late at night to go for a run ... ) I hope we have an opportunity to meet again sometime.

  2. Love that pic of the two of you from a "few years ago". So glad you had such a great reunion!