Linda Chavez: Facing my 50th class reunion
My 50th high school reunion is still a month away — time enough to lose the 10 pounds that have crept back on after a successful diet a few years back. I have a feeling all my classmates are in the same boat. Well, maybe not all. As I look through the pictures of those brave enough to post updates to their graduation photos, there are a few who have remained slim, but most are heavier and almost all grayer, except for the minority, who, like me, color their hair. I don’t know that I’ll make my goal, and maybe I should just give up the ghost.
Why is it that facing one’s former classmates seems so daunting? A few friends who are former classmates have already told me they aren’t attending. It’s not that they don’t want to see everybody; it’s that they don’t want to be seen. Mind you, these are successful, attractive people who have good lives, but they aren’t ready to face the fact that they aren’t the 18-year-olds they once were.
Fifty years is a big chunk of time, and having that amount of time elapse in your life makes you realize you’re old. I remember meeting my Uncle Milton in Sheridan, Wyoming, in 1991, where he was attending his 50th high school reunion. At the time, a 50th seemed so far off I couldn’t imagine being interested in attending my own. Uncle Milt was an old man to me — retired, a little on the grumpy side and not someone I could fathom kicking back on the dance floor.
The morning after the event, however, he seemed rejuvenated. He had many stories to tell of what happened to his classmates, who had graduated during WWII. Some had died in the war, and virtually all the boys had served in combat, including Milt, who was a naval officer. Most of his classmates in the small public school had done well despite their modest beginnings. They were, after all, part of the Greatest Generation.
Far fewer of my classmates served during our generation’s war in Vietnam. Of the 97 classmates who’ve signed up for the reunion site, only 11 served in the military — but that is a far greater number than you’d see today. Only about .5 percent of Americans serve now. But my class is well represented in most other professions: lawyers, teachers, engineers, business owners, police and firefighters, nurses, even an artist or two, a singer, and some writers, as well as homemakers and even a couple of nuns.
Ours was a Catholic school that served a diverse, largely lower middle class parish in the heart of Denver. The nuns and the handful of lay teachers who taught us didn’t much care what our parents did — my father was a house painter and my mother worked in a department store. They expected us to “amount to something,” as they would say.
College was not yet the norm. No one ever mentioned I should consider applying to college, though the nuns made sure I took all the classes that would prepare me to do so, including trigonometry and calculus, chemistry, physics and four years of language, Latin and French. When I ended up taking classes at the extension center for the University of Colorado part time while I worked the year after I graduated, I found that writing essays was a lot easier than standing on my feet eight hours a day in 3-inch high heels. I decided college was a better option than following in my mother’s footsteps.
My guess is I will hear lots of similar stories from my classmates. And who knows — we may get so absorbed in listening to one another’s lives that we won’t even notice those extra pounds. I hope so, because a month seems a very short time to try to get rid of the accumulated freight of 50 years.