Reunions give second chances
Newfield High School’s Graduating Class of 1980 celebrated its 30th Reunion this past summer, but I did not attend.
In fact, even though this is my class, my school, my reunion, I have not attended any of the reunions arranged since I graduated in 1980.
We had over 600 students in my graduating class alone. I was a very small fish in a huge, vast ocean, and since my family had moved around a lot while I was in my teens, it was a foreign ocean for the most part. I had tried to join the yearbook club and newspaper club, but I was not in either of those cliques, so I just stopped going to meetings. I played drums and was taking BOCES cosmetology courses, but my family moved out of state when I was in 11th grade, only to move back for 12th grade.
I had missed too much – both academically and socially ¬– and could not continue where I had left off. As a result, as a senior I had some close friends, but for the most part I focused on my academics and just looked forward to graduation.
As our 30th reunion date approached, with the help of email and Facebook, I hooked back up with some of my former classmates. I was surprised with how many actually remembered me, as I did not remember my high school years being particularly noteworthy. But as the day drew closer, more and more people asked me to go. I actually was toying with the idea of going.
As the deadline drew nearer I regretfully had to decline. My daughter, Allie Rose, was performing in her first summer musical, The King and I, with Stage Two Theatre Company, and all three performances were the same weekend as my class reunion.
Now, after four days of covering the Richfield Springs High School Reunion weekend for Classes 1955-1965, not to mention the 50th reunion for the Class of 1960, I have to say I don’t regret missing my reunion at all.
I had a total blast with all the RS alumni, regardless of the age gap, regardless of the fact that I did not graduate from RSHS, let alone with their classes. Even though I was an outsider, just covering the events for the Richfield Springs Mercury reunion edition, I was embraced and befriended and made to feel welcome.
Stories were shared, jokes were told, laughter flowed and great memories were made.
That August weekend is a weekend I will always remember.
It is a bit ironic that this reunion came at this time in my life. As I am celebrating 30 years out of high school, my son, Anthony, is celebrating the start of a new life with his own graduation, from Herkimer High School.
The week after the reunion, we drove Anthony to the College of St. Rose, in Albany, where he will be studying music education. Here begins his journey of adulthood, where every day takes him one step further away from the memories made during high school, and one day closer to his 50th reunion.
Back in 2002, when Anthony was just 10 years old, we moved here from Long Island. Moving upstate was a huge decision in my life, but I did it knowing it would be the best move for my two children. And every day I am proven right.
Herkimer may not be as small town as Richfield, but when you compare graduating classes of 50 to 100 students with graduating classes of 500 to 600 and then some ... Herkimer is pretty darn “home town,” at least coming from a Long Islander.
Here I have seen my kids soar, where on Long Island they would have been as grounded as a delayed flight waiting to take off during a snowstorm at JFK. Here they have reached for dreams and grabbed tightly, where on Long Island their dreams might have remained just that: dreams.
I could begin bragging right now on their achievements, but I won’t. Instead, I will just say I have loved watching my kids grow up and experience the things I never could when I was their age, especially, life in Small Town, USA. Ironically, sometimes growing up on densely populated Long Island where the faces of students blend together like grains of sand on Jones Beach was extremely lonely.
And in praising Anthony and Allie Rose’s achievements, I have to give credit to the wonderfully simple life, the down home culture, the “it takes a village” concept that upstate living has allowed us to experience.
It’s this mentality, this way of life, which made the RSHS reunions such a success. People who attended the reunion events were coming home, whether they were hailing from Los Angeles, Thailand, Jordanville or Ilion. That “coming home” feeling meant being welcomed and loved. It meant being a part of something that fewer and fewer communities get to experience in this day and age.
While the alumni celebrated life from a half a century ago, they also celebrated the lives lost of fellow classmates. Some had died right out of high school. Others passed away just weeks before the reunion, with plans already in place for attending.
A moment of silence was offered as these names were called, but in the end, the celebration continued for hours. I’m sure it was past many of their normal bedtimes. But it was worth it.
After all, life is for living, and believe me, with the reunion celebrations of 1955 through 1965, the hundreds of Richfield Spring High School alumni who attended were indeed living it.