I went to my high school reunion last Saturday night. Class of 1976–35 years ago.
We were a fractured class and I know that most of us left our small, private school with a sense of relief that those days were over.
Let me tell you how it began.
Private schools have long been part of life around here. Generations of families are loyal to one school or another. I would’ve loved to have gone to the school that my grandmother, father, brother, uncle and a host of cousins attended, but it was boys only at the time and that made it off limits.
There were several venerable girls-only schools around, but they weren’t right either.
Then my parents learned that a friend of the family was starting a new school. A co-ed venture that would offer a well-rounded experience with emphasis on academics, athletics and spiritual life.
It was going to be a grassroots effort with no frills for the first few years. There was no cleaning staff and we students spent the last 15 minutes of the day doing chores. There was no cafeteria and the first year we either brought our lunch or placed an order first thing in the morning for McDonald’s. There was a strict dress code, and now I know that uniforms would’ve made our lives much easier.
At first there were only 4 classes–7-10 and about 150 kids. There were 9 faculty. The football team practiced in a cow pasture and one classmate who lived adjacent to the school was regularly pulled out of class to round up her horses that were loose on the grounds.
The years went by and the school grew. Faculty were added. New buildings were built. And somewhere along the way the “spiritual” aspect became a little more pronounced. It was always a little more evangelical and Jesus-freakish than I and many of my friends were comfortable with.
By the time we were seniors, our class was clearly divided–at least in my recollection. Cynics on one side. Optimists on the other. When it came time for our senior trip the school decided that our class, unlike all the others, would go to a state park about 75 miles away instead of Florida.
So we weren’t in a very good mood.
Then it rained.
So there was a collection raised and one boy who was of legal age (18 back then) drove to the nearest liquor store.
You can guess what happened next.
About half of us were sent home. I actually think we were the lucky ones. There were meetings with parents and there was even talk that we wouldn’t be allowed to graduate.
But in the end, we did graduate. And off we went, all too glad to have that episode over.
But isn’t it funny how you forgive and forget over time? I was genuinely glad to see the people I will always think of as boys and girls. Most of us were together for 6 years–the first class to go all the way through from 7th grade to 12th.
As one classmate put it Saturday, he didn’t appreciate the school then, but he certainly does now.
Here’s what I appreciate–no one at the school had a locker. We all had little cubby holes. We left our purses there most of the time and our books too. We didn’t worry one bit about someone stealing our stuff–it wasn’t even a possibility.
35 years is a long time. But the girls who were sweet then are still sweet today. Pretty ones are still pretty. Jocks still have the athletic air and the ones who were funny and smart are still funny and smart.
Here’s to seeing you all again for 40.