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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

40 Years Flew By

They wandered in one by one, glancing around, some of them nervously looking to find someone they recognized. And inevitably they would break into a big grin when a familiar face finally came towards them. But this wasn't a high school dance.

My husband and I were a little early, thinking we'd grab something to eat before the rest of the Steveston Grads of '75 began to arrive at our 40th grad reunion. There were only a handful of them there when we arrived at the pub, so we said hello and wrote our names on little paper name tags, and updated our email addresses on the big list of fellow graduates. The first order of business for me was a big glass of wine...who knew what the evening would bring? I planted myself at one of the tables, eager to find out.

Thirty years ago at our 10th reunion, most people were talking about their new jobs and careers, handing out business cards, still sticking to their little high school cliques. And I swear some people were wearing the same clothes as they did when we graduated. A few of us were married by then, and I was expecting my first child.

At our 20th, I was there by myself so several of the guys kept bringing me glasses of wine. That's about as much as I can remember.

Ten years ago at our 30th reunion, I remember thinking the women were gorgeous and the men...well, I actually mistook one of them for a teacher! Yes, the wear and tear of middle age was certainly upon us by then. But it was delightful to see everyone and we had a great time.

And now here we were at our 40th, a more casual event than the other reunions had been. Two of our wonderful fellow graduates started to put things in motion a couple of months ago when it looked like nothing was going to happen this year. They reserved an area of a Richmond pub, and we all used word of mouth and social media this time to try and spread the word. In 1975, who would even have known that the phrase "social media" would someday exist and bring us all together like this?

With each new person that entered the pub, I waited for a flicker of familiarity. Some looked almost exactly as they had in high school. Many I had to stare at for awhile because I wasn't sure. Others I would never have recognized if it weren't for their name tags.

I was thrilled when my old friend Judy walked in. I recognized her immediately, even though we hadn't seen each other since we graduated. She had never received any notifications for previous reunions, so this was her first. I jumped up from my table and we gave each other a big hug. In fact, there were many hugs and handshakes and how-the-hell-are-you's all evening. Some counted around 50 or 60 people, not bad for 40 years later.

Along with the many chats I had, I caught snippets of other conversations and got caught up on a lot of people's stories. Some of us are now grandparents or recently retired. There are no cliques any more. As Judy said, you couldn't tell a football hero from a drama geek. We are all now somehow on a level playing field. We've all been worn and somewhat humbled by life, some of us more than others. We have many stories to tell, losses we've suffered through, triumphs we've enjoyed. And, sadly, there are the stories of those of us who are no longer around.

It's sobering to look at the faces of a group of people nearing 60, and realize that they must see you the same way, even if you don't feel that way inside. I used to think that death was the great leveller, but now I actually think time is a greater one. When we were 18, we thought we knew it all. We thought we could change everything. We had no notion of anything ending. Going out into the world was exciting, scary, and full of possibilities. I wondered as I watched my fellow grads the other night, were they happy with their lives? Disappointed? Did the world live up to their expectations?

I'm sure the answers would be mixed.

My old friend Craig had managed to hang on to his graduation dance card, so that made the rounds. A copy of our high school annual was also there making the rounds. That annual came in real handy when you couldn't recognize a face! People were taking lots of pictures of the crowd and selfies with each other. I didn't see one business card exchanged. What we did for a living seemed just a very small part of our stories now.  It was more about reconnecting, reminiscing and enjoying each other's company. And that, we certainly did.

We vowed that we weren't going to wait another ten years to get together again. Ten years, in many respects, is a lot longer for us these days. So our next reunion will be five years from now.  Yikes. That's 2020.

Needless to say, unlike times past, my husband and I were in bed by 11.

We were the Steveston Grads of '75. And then 40 years flew by.

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Steveston High School, Class of '75




Craig's dance card







And just for fun, here are some of the things a few people wrote in my annual:

Irene,
I hope one day I'll hear you on the radio.
J. D.

To the girl with the voice of a "meadow lark" and a great friend.
S. B.

Irene
Thanks for picking me up off the floor on grad night.
W. M. 
(I sincerely don't remember that incident)

Irene,
If you're not getting it regularly, phone me.
T. L. 
(yes, he wrote that)

Irene,
Good luck and best wishes.
M.W. 
(my future husband...romantic, eh?)