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Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Small High School Reunion

I graduated from high school in 1968. Since then, I've kept in touch during the past 44 years only with my best friend since 8th grade. For a while we both lived in Virginia, and for 10 years we lived in adjacent states, and saw each other frequently. I've really had no interest in going back to New Jersey since I left in 1974, returning only for an occasional visit with my parents until they moved to Florida, for my 1980 wedding in my parents' home in Whiting, for my 20th year college reunion in 1992, and my father's funeral in 2002.

After I moved my mother to Idaho following her first stroke, I flew back to Florida to empty and sell her condo. While there, I received a call on my cell phone from a high school classmate, encouraging me to attend our 30th year reunion. I really had no interest, and declined the invitation, as I couldn't think of more than a few classmates I'd want to see. As it turns out, the reunion coincided with my first pancreas-related hospitalization. Timing is everything, I guess.

Last year, this same classmate started a Steinert High School Facebook group, and, as I was pretty new to Facebook, I joined. What a curious experience. A few of my classmates look almost as they did in school. Most are visibly older, heavier, balder - like I am. Some I just didn't recognize by name or face. Many, I've heard from once, and no more. I was pleased to reconnect with Mike Silvestrov, with whom I'd been friends from kindergarten until I left New Jersey and we lost touch; and Kathy Wingard, my bus seat-mate on our senior trip to Washington, D.C.; and Barbara Lee, whom I last saw when we were college freshmen, she at Douglass College, and I at Rutgers College - both colleges of Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Barb and her partner, Florence, bought a self-contained RV, and have driven it across the length and breadth of this country. I saw on Facebook that they were in Alaska with their two chihuahuas and found their photographs interesting. Imagine my surprise when Barb contacted me and expressed interest in visiting Karen and me on their way back to New Jersey. I quickly agreed, but wondered what we'd talk about after all these years.

With Barb (r) and Florence (l)
at our new house site
Yesterday, at 6 p.m., they rolled across our gravel-strewn culvert and pulled into our front yard. I'd never met Florence, so I really didn't know what to expect with her. Barb and I had been friends, but not close friends. I remembered her with long dark hair, and piercing eyes. She still had the eyes, but her hair was now short and largely gray; and, like most of us, she'd gained weight. When I moved from New Jersey to Virginia, I did my best to lose my Jersey accent; Barb, who's live her life to date in Jersey sounded like Chris  Christie, but without the crazy edginess.

It was a fun mini-reunion. We caught up on what we'd been doing since freshman college year (she worked in publishing, then in nursing), how long we'd been with our "spouses" (she and Florence, unable to marry in New Jersey, for 17 years, Karen and me for 32); people we remembered, some of whom she'd reconnected with in person, some who've died; things we remembered or had forgotten about each other; how I've adapted to rural lifestyles; our mutual love of pets; family illnesses; our similar political beliefs. I'm glad Barb and Florence came to visit. She invited us to visit if we ever came east, and if we did, we would. But, I think we're confirmed westerners.

Best wishes, Barb and Florence. If you see any of our classmates, say "Hi" for me.

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