Going back for a high school class reunion sharpened my focus on certain realities. It was a milestone event for me this past weekend in Griffin, Georgia. Driving into town for the first time since my parents moved a year after my graduation was a trip back into what I like to think is authentic America.
Since I had not been able to attend any of the previous reunions, I was afraid I would find the kind of posturing and spinning that goes on at so many D.C. events, populated as it is with more than its share of outsized egos. Instead, I was surprised and very gratified to encounter moist eyes and genuine caring in my friends' hugs and greetings.
It was emotionally moving to experience my former classmates' open, friendly, warm welcome of their long-lost friend who left town and was so late in returning. Amazingly, it felt as though our friendships took up almost exactly where we left off so many years ago.
Our class had 181 graduating seniors, 70 of whom returned for this reunion. The following are a few of the dominant images that distilled in my mind from seeing these many old friends along with pouring over the written and pictorial accounts from the 61 who provided a page for the reunion yearbook.
Marriage is Still a Central Feature of Mainstream America: A clear majority of those attending the reunion were married within five years of graduating from high school and remain married to that original spouse – 42 of us. An additional three married later and are still married to the same person. Ten were divorced and remarried. Three were widowed and remarried and two were widowed or divorced and remain unmarried. Only one has never married. Though several of the women mentioned "being replaced with a younger model," there were no "trophy wives" at the reunion.
High School Teachers can have a "Profound and Continuing Influence:" Several classmates expressed gratitude and appreciation to specific teachers. A couple of classmates wrote that their lives were profoundly influenced by certain teachers. I know mine certainly was by Miss Julia Elliott whose influence pointed me to my career and helped shaped my character. Several classmates cited the quality of their Griffin High School education as a major factor in their later success in life and career. One recounted her college dean's comment that Griffin High graduates were always among the college's academically best prepared students.