Mystic Sweet Communion

The Class Reunion

Over the past few months I have received half-a-dozen or so e-mails relating to my upcoming 30th high school reunion. Leaving aside the shock that I could possibly be having such a thing, and factoring in that I was a year younger than everyone in my class, so naturally I’m not as old as *they* are, I have had a little fun exploring the website where classmates have uploaded pictures from then and now. I looked over the list of missing students and marveled that the only friend I’ve kept up with, Lolly, who still lives in that town, is on it. I was unsurprised by the members of the reunion committee, a collection of cheerleaders and other women who were once the girls in the "popular" set. I consider myself to have been fully a music and drama geek, and it was a pleasant surprise to get an e-mail from the organizer saying she hoped I would be there. We did have some classes together and were always cordial, so I suppose it’s possible she’s curious to know how I turned out.

This morning I followed an e-mail link back to the reunion website, smiled that "Celebration" is the theme song (because what else could it be? "Play that Funky Music, White Boy?" "Brick House?"), and then, I noticed it.

In the sidebar, I saw the words "In Memoriam."

Please consider that I have lived far away for twenty years and even before that I was not particularly connected to the classmates with whom I spent 11th and 12th grade. I stayed in town to go to college, but I lived on campus and no longer saw even the high school classmates who were day students at The College of Knowledge. I had a summer job on Merchant’s Square, at the Candy Store, but the girls who worked with me there were Lolly and some girls a year behind us. It wasn’t until I moved across the street to work in the shoe department of a then-preppy ladies shop that I saw a high school classmate again, Sue, a sunny young woman who had gone into retail right after graduation and was excited, at 21, to have achieved the role of jewelry buyer, with the associated trips to New York.

I’ve been away from there a long time, but I remember how kind she was to me, how her eyes would flash with amusement, how excited she was to get engaged while I was finishing my Junior Year. Her wedding was the first I ever saw video-taped. It was 1981, and that was the new thing.

This morning I scrolled down the page. All the kids in that class are vaguely familiar to me. There were only 175 of us, a pretty even number of black and white kids in a newly opened high school without a lot of true integration outside the football and basketball teams.  The first face on the page did not bring up particular memories, nor the second, two young men–one black, one white–the first survived by a daughter who could be as old as my oldest son, for he has been gone almost twenty years, the second survived by his parents. The third, another boy, and I say boy because the pictures are taken from our high school yearbook, seems more recognizable. He liked to party, or that’s the association I had for him. He has been dead ten years, leaving behind a wife and children.

I scrolled down once more, and there were tears as I realized I was looking at a picture of Sue, who died six weeks ago. How could Sue be dead? And so recently? Why am I so disconnected that I might never have known?

She is — she was — my age, or just a year older. What happened to her?

I found her obituary a few minutes later, cancer, not specified. She is survived by the husband I remember from the day of the videotape, and they had three children together. The young woman starting a career became a stay-at-home mom, which gave her time, the obituary told me, for her great interests: the Christian Women’s Club, her church, her children.

Oh, Sue! I don’t know when you felt drawn to a life of faith, or why. I don’t know how much it meant to you, because I’m afraid we often say things about other people’s sure presence in heaven because it is the only way to make their absence bearable. I haven’t seen you in 25 years. Did you come to my wedding? I can’t even remember. Somewhere there is a card file my mother kept of all the people invited to my wedding, and I must look for it. My stay-at-home mom had time for that kind of interest, you see.

You are just a year older than I am. Your mother’s and father’s names, listed in your obituary, brought you back to me, the way you used to laugh and call them by their first names when you talked about them, the dirty little joke you made about…well, never mind. I’ll keep that to myself. But I want to remember you that way, and really I have no choice. I remember you young and shiny and irreverent, reaching out toward adult life without knowing what that really meant. Wherever we go, you are already there, and somehow that amazes me more than usual when I think of you in that terrible drape the photographers made us wear for those awful Senior pictures. You wore a cross with it, and so did I. Farewell, my sister, now part of the communion of saints, too soon.

I guess that’s the real class reunion.

21 thoughts on “The Class Reunion”

  1. I’m sorry about your friend. It’s so difficult to hear of our peers entering the communion of saints. This is a lovely tribute.
    Oh, and if I’m sitting up in my living room in the wee hours of the morning humming “Brick House” – it’s on you. Just sayin…. 🙂

  2. Goodness, sweetie – that does hurt and sadden, doesn’t it! I’m sorry for Sue’s untimely departure – but it is lovely that she should be remembered here, made real for readers who never knew her, whose lives are far away from hers.

  3. Isn’t it just so odd how little we can “know” someone and yet still have such vivid memories. Blessings to Sue’s family.

  4. It’s hard to realize that some former classmates will not still move through life experiences as we continue on. It brings home just how fragile life really can be.

  5. (((Songbird)))
    The first member of our tiny class (76 students) to die killed himself in one of those terrible “tv news at eleven” divorce/custody disputes. He, and we, were 25 at the time. I still think of Mitch as young and shiny, too.
    And like Sue, I’m “lettin’ it all hang out”. Thanks a lot.

  6. I’m so sorry for this loss. I know how very piercing it can be.
    Hee hee, “Brick House.” I did a dance routine to that in high school! SCARES ME to even think about what they made us do in PE. My real home was with the choir geeks. 🙂

  7. Ack. 30th reunion. That would be this summer wouldn’t it.
    It is strange to think of people that we went to high school with as even being capable of dying. I suppose we ought to get used to the idea.

  8. I had a milestone reunion this past summer. I was not able to attend, but had the same kinds of experiences exploring the “Class of” website. Like you, a girl I’d been not-close-friends-but-more-than-aquaintances with had died, and fairly recently. Sad.

  9. I haven’t kept up with high school classmates over the years except for Little S. I imagine the losses are considerable in my graduating class, too.
    I feel both cheated and guilty when I read an obituary and realize that I didn’t know this or that about the dead. Rats!
    Before my 10th high school reunion, I had nightmares about it. I hold to this tradition everytime another ten years passes and I receive a reunion invitation.

  10. What a lovely tribute! I attended my 30th this past August. I didn’t pay attention to the Excel spreadsheets we received beforehand (no snazzy website, unfortunately), so I didn’t see the “In Memoriam” list in advance. During the event itself, there was a slide show running on an endless loop, and I happened to glance at it just in time to see the pictures of classmates who had passed on. It was heartbreaking to see those young faces in their graduation photos. They’re gone too soon.

  11. Thanks for sharing this beautifully written post. It caused me to reflect on my own connections (or lack of) with friends from the past.

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