Sunday, November 9, 2014

Thirtieth High School Reunion

In June of 1984, 275 students of Spring Ford High School graduated.  Most of them sat on the football field on a sultry summer evening to get diplomas.  The thunderstorm held off until a few hours after the ceremony ended.  Among them was a skinny, withdrawn kid who had recently gained notoriety by being the first person sent home from the class trip:  Me.

You won't find me in this class picture

I graduated 26 out of 275 after a senior year of not caring about my grades (except in English) and working many many hours at the local Burger King.  All I remember from graduation was a guy named George L running around after getting his diploma with total joy on his face.  I won the award for Outstanding Writer of the Year.  I remember standing up for that when my name was announced.

By that time, I'd repressed my feminine side, and already the anger and pain were obvious to any who bothered to look.  But no one did, as I pushed almost everyone else away.  I couldn't let anyone know my shameful Dark Secret!

Yearbook Picture

Few in the class went to college; fewer still graduated.  Very few gained higher degrees.  Many served our country in the armed forces.

The years went by slowly at first.  I attended the five year reunion, where I got very drunk, almost got into a fight with a Marine (note to self: never call a Marine a "boy scout" even in jest!), and stole someone else's date.  I shouldn't have driven home that night.  Many of my classmates had already gone through their first divorce by then.

The ten year reunion was during the day and was a picnic so it would be "family friendly" as most of us by then had small children running around.  What I remember most from that reunion was a great volleyball game and classmate (who was then a police officer) sporting a Hitler mustache.  Really!

The next reunion I attended was the 25th.  We held it in conjunction with the class of 1983 as we had a lack of interest.  The VFW where we were to hold it burned to the ground, so we had it in a tent on the grounds next to an old cemetery.  The metaphor was not lost on me.

Me, the tent, 25 year reunion

So now it was time for our 30th.  The surviving members of the class (we'd had several suicides and accidents) are all in their late forties with all that implies.  Balding, graying, expanding.  We've all changed.  And I've changed a LOT.

I wasn't going to attend.  The cost was $45 per person and I just couldn't afford it.  Then there was the whole "why bother going when I really wasn't close to anyone who will be there?"  Yes, I had friends in High School, but most would not be there as they now live far away.  Then of course there was the elephant in the room:  I was now Full time as my true self, and almost none of them had seen me that way.  Our school had its share of hell raisers, and I frankly worried about a confrontation.

Well, as it turns out, several of my classmates are facialbook friends.  One of them, Eva, reached out to me and asked me to attend.  I told her I couldn't.  She offered to pay my way.  I was dubious.  Why would a person I really barely knew back then and hadn't seen in thirty years want to pay for me?  My mind pondered paranoid possibilities until I finally decided "what the hell- why not?"  With Eva paying, I'd have "no skin in the game" and could leave at any time with no real loss.

So the night arrived: Saturday, November 8, 2014.  Thirty years ago, I was at Drexel University.  Now I was sitting in my car outside Spring Hollow Country Club, wearing my polka dot dress, nervous as hell.  I tried to call my "Big Sister" Mel to get some last second advice, but she was busy and couldn't answer.  I remembered all the advice I received from my facialbook friends.  I took a deep breath and left my car for the chilly walk across the parking lot.

Ready for the Reunion!

The first person I encountered inside was a classmate who asked if I was one of her classmates.  I replied that I was.  She asked my name,  I told her my last name.  She looked at me, pondering, then her eyes grew so very wide.  She gave me a big hug, and greeted me.  We didn't talk the rest of the night, as we really barely knew each other then and now.

The second person to greet me was our class president: Shelly.  She thanked me for coming, and asked me to sign a class picture someone had blown up.  I loved the idea, and asked if I could sign it despite not being in the picture.  Shelly laughed.  I also made a name tag.  Also at the "greeting table" was a box for donations.  One of our classmates had been killed by a drunk driver while jogging the previous spring.  She was one of the popular girls, and the donations were for her family.

Bob C was the real force behind organizing this reunion, and he also promptly greeted me and thanked me for coming.  Later that night, he was speak to me privately and tell me that he was "very glad" I could make it.  I smiled.  He's a class act.

As I waited at the bar to order a drink, George L approached me and was very chatty.  he bought me a drink.  I would later buy him one.  His chattiness toward me died down suddenly as the night progressed.  I guess someone briefed him as to who I was.  That's fine though.

I spent my time updating my memories.  One of my classmates, Michelle G, and I had a wonderful conversation that inexplicably turned to abortion (not my fault!  Honest!).  We agreed to disagree, and spoke several times during the night.

With Eva

Eva arrived and we hugged.  I thanked her again for her generosity.  She hung out mostly with one of my few dear friends from high school:Sue G.  Sue is a fantastic writer.  In school, all the writing awards were either won by her or me.  She has also become a great friend and confidant over the years.  This was her first reunion.

With Sue G

Halfway through the night, a classmate who shall go unnamed sat next to me as I was sitting for a minute and proceeded to have a conversation with my breasts.  I decided to have a little fun, and moved them to the left and right, and his head followed them like when I tease my dog with a piece of food.  Still the conversation was pleasant and my boobs enjoyed it immensely.

The person I spoke with the most is someone I'd known since first grade:  Tony S.  It was his first reunion as well, and he brought his beautiful wife.  Tony and I used to be quite good friends in elementary school but drifted apart.  Remind me to write about the only high school party I hosted and tell you what he and Joe J did that got me caught.  In any case, Tony served a stint in the army and has become quite successful in his chosen field.  We had a wonderful conversation, and he was very supportive.  And his wife was an absolute delight!

With Tony S.  My arm looks HUGE.

Many of my classmates and I didn't talk, but that's ok, as we never did.

I was a bit surprised to hear that several of my classmates read this blog with some regularity!  Well Hi classmates!  84 forevermore!

Some of my classmates had respectful questions, but one of them HAD to go there- to the crotch.  He asked about mine, and I countered by asking him how HIS crotch was functioning, whether or not he could still get it up at our age.  He smiled and apologized for the question.

The night was to go from 7-11 PM.  I'd stopped drinking early and danced a bit to rid myself of some of the alcohol.  As the night was near its end Shelly P dragged many to the dance floor including me.  As Lance, I never danced, but as Sophie, I do.  So I did, and I enjoyed myself.

The venue extended our event by half an hour, but I decided to leave a little early.  I said my goodbyes and headed out into the cold night to my car.  I stopped briefly at Mckenzies to say hi to my friend Valerie and to straighten out all of what happened in my head.  She poured me a drink that I barely touched, as I was very concerned about drinking and driving.  My night ended quietly.

I made it into this class picture!

72 people attended this reunion out of the 275 who graduated, making this the best attended of all the reunions.  That's 26.2% for you math types.  What brought me to this event?  What brought the others?  I think it's the need for Connection.  All we have in common is that we lived in the same area and were about the same age, so that made us classmates.

But by seeing each other all through our school years, friendships formed.  Some of them lasted- others didn't.  But that need to reconnect with these old friends with whom we shared experiences in our now fading youth... it's a powerful draw. We're all in our late forties now, and most of us have children.  Some of us even have grandchildren.  Our lives have all changed and most of us have grown.  But that delicate thread of experiences and friendship, so tenuous... is that what I was seeking perhaps even unconsciously?  Was I there seeking approval?  Redemption?  Or just a smile and a kind word from people with whom I share history if not friendship.  I'm glad I went- I had a wonderful time.

Connection.  We all need it.  Maybe in time all wounds heal,  but they never heal alone.   Sometimes it takes Change... and someone extending their hand.

Thank you Eva, for talking me into going.  And thank you Class of 84 for your acceptance.

As  I wrote this entry, I received a message from a classmate on facialbook.  It read in part "just wanted to say how much credit I give you for coming last night. You were so confident and very comfortable in your own skin. I'm sure it was not easy, but you made it look seamless."

I smiled and felt so very warm inside.


  1. Sophie -

    I'm glad you went.... Times does heal a lot of old wounds. And I think you found that many people don't give a hoot about the past, save that it links people together as part of a community. Hopefully, you'll be there for your 40th anniversary - as I was for mine. (However, I will spring being TG on the group at our 50th anniversary - if a party is held....)


  2. I have always found reunions a little difficult, and I suspect that they might be even more difficult now. My own school was single sex and closed around 10 - 12 years after I left. At that point there was a reunion and it felt as though it was all about point scoring, who had the biggest car, the highest salary or the prettiest wife. As a musician I lost out on all of these.

    I wonder if we had another reunion now how many would turn up and how they would react to me now. In those days I was what you Yanks would call a Jock, I played Rugby in the front row, threw the hammer and pumped iron, now I'm three stone (42 lbs) lighter a bit shorter (unless I wear heels) and although I present rather differently I am still recognisable.

  3. Haven't been to a school reunion yet, but then, my senior class was only 40-something strong, in a rural area! I've managed to locate one classmate, but haven't contacted him. I'm doubtful that I'd be well-accepted if I showed up in a was a rather conservative farming area in upstate NY.

    As far as your event goes, you looked very pretty...and if I had been in your class, I'd have been proud to buy you a drink and talk with you. I'm glad the others treated you ok...but I think your theory about reunions is probably accurate - bragging rights!

    A standing ovation for your courage, girlfriend. Maybe someday we can meet and talk... Though I'm getting out a bit on my own, I need some of your confidence.



  4. You faced this adventure with courage! Good luck for the next trial (sorry for the bad english!)

  5. Loved the article. So great to see you! Looking forward to reading more of your blog in the future! Becky

  6. challenged! This my 3rd attempt to comment, so if all 3 come thru, forgive me. Sophie great article, it was wonderful to see you! Sorry we did not get to talk as much as I would have liked; me arriving late didn't help. Looking forward to reading your blog on a regular basis!