Dorothy Wilhelm: Family wins out over classmates during reunion season
This will be the last reunion. The postcard came in the mail last week: “We don’t have the time or energy to put these reunions together any more. So the 60th reunion will be the last reunion for the graduating class of 1951-1952 North Central High School in Spokane, WA.”
I’m not complaining. I certainly haven’t been any help and 60 years is a perfectly respectable number, though the best reunion I ever attended was the 70th reunion of Stadium High School’s class of 1939. I was invited to act as emcee, but those folks showed no sign of slowing down and they certainly didn’t need an outsider to show them how to have fun.
The reunion announcement expresses the hope that everyone will enjoy being together for one last time. They’ve taken care to see that the occasion is not too stimulating. There will be no program except for an update from the current principal of the school, and the money left in the reunion fund will be donated to the college fund of the school. Perhaps everybody will sing “Red and Black” one last time and it ends at 4 p.m. in the afternoon. Maybe they’re weaning us.
I continue to be proud of the fact that my high school has been one of the few in the country able to keep their mascot, “the Indians,” by inviting members of the local Native American tribes into the school to teach history, supervise the way the tribes are depicted and create historical displays together.
Our 50th reunion was the most memorable. It was held the weekend of 9/11 while flights were still grounded and alumni got there any way they could. Everything seemed in sharp focus.
We checked for classmates with more droops or wrinkles than we had. Double points for finding anyone both droopier and wrinklier.
I wore a red sequined dress so tight it made my support hose roll down around my knees. I couldn’t walk but it didn’t matter. I stood in one place and felt really queenly until I heard someone say, “Hmm. She looks pretty good. Think she’s had work?”
There are some reunions you wouldn’t want to miss. This week, both sides of my husband’s family reunited to celebrate my sister-in-law’s 85th birthday. Rock Star of the event was Baby Thomas, who came into this world with life hanging by a fragile string. Now, after many surgeries, he’s an outgoing 1-year-old, with unstoppable curiosity about life. We watched him escape through the back door. Never realizing he was under the watchful gaze of his mother, he battled his way through the yard and up the stairs to the front door, wrenching it open and then weeping in stunned disbelief when he realized he’d done all that work just to get back to the same room of dull adults he’d cleverly left behind.
Class reunions are different and I’ve never liked them. You never can find anyone you remember and the jocks still won’t talk to you. I’ve been very self-conscious about getting into large groups ever since that study was published that proved that older folks have a distinct “old people” smell. I explained to my great-grandsons that as you get older, your sense of smell becomes less acute. “So I wouldn’t know if I smelled,” I said cheerfully, hoping for a disclaimer like “You smell wonderful, Grandma.”
“Oh,” said their mom. “Would you like us to tell you, Grandma Dorothy?”
“No. No, I wouldn’t.” There are some things you’re better off not knowing, in my view.
I still haven’t decided about that last reunion. Something valuable could happen.
Some family members met each other for the first time at our family reunion last week. My younger daughter stopped short when a cousin said, “Your dad was my favorite uncle. I adored him.” My daughter shook her head. “I forget he wasn’t just my dad. He was somebody’s favorite uncle,” she said wonderingly of the father who died when she was 6 years old.
Every once in a while, at a reunion, you’ll find someone who holds a bit of your history, and that can be exciting.
Dorothy Wilhelm is a professional humorist and national speaker. Publication date for her teeny, tiny book, “No Assembly Required, Volume 2,” (Laughing All The Way), is July 29. Details at sixtyplusdatebook.com
. Contact Dorothy by email at Dorothy@itsnevertoolate.com.