School Reunions:

Some people look forward to reunions and others, avoid them like the plague. I think it depends on the type of reunion that is involved, and the time in your life when it occurs.

First, let’s look at secondary school reunions. Thank God, I never went to my high school homecoming, so I didn’t have to go through all the emotional and mental stress of trying to turn back the clock by ten or more years, in an effort to look like I was 17 again. No crash diet for me. No frantic attempt to try to lose those extra pounds that married life and having kids had added to my figure. I simply had no desire to see many of my past classmates. The 1997 comedy, Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, points out the good and the bad aspects of this get together. Although it was a silly movie, it did have its moments.

Those friends who were important to me back then, are still my friends today. Because we stay in touch on a regular basis, we know each other’s life stories inside and out, and we can relax with each other as we age gracefully. There are no shock reactions within this group such as, “My God, doesn’t Sally look old”. Subtle differences over time have gone unnoticed. In our eyes, we are still those girls from the early 1960s.

But there is one school reunion that I did attend, a 50-year reunion for the 1966 graduating class from Stratford’s Teacher College. Yes, that is right. Don’t bother doing the math. First, a little history lesson. Sixty plus years ago, one could become a teacher by simply completing Grade 12 and then taking a six-week summer course. A job would be waiting for you that September. Then, the powers that be, decided that teachers should have Grade 12 plus two years of Teachers’ College. Shortly thereafter, another change was made. The year I went to Stratford, we were required to have Grade 13 but only one year of college. Look at the requirements for today’s teachers. Not sure though, if it makes for better teachers, just more expensive ones. I started teaching with The Toronto Township Board (today known as Mississauga) at what was considered top pay in the province for beginning elementary school teachers – $4,700.00 a year.

Back to the reunion. I am a relatively low maintenance woman, so it wasn’t until a few hours before catching the train that I thought I had better decide on what to wear. I had a limited wardrobe so only three choices A, B or C were available. Now A didn’t fit, B looked a little shabby, so C it was. However, I must admit I am a little bit vain. I did shorten the straps on my bra to try to make the girls stand up and pay attention. I only mention the dress situation as I do believe most of the ladies there, had been busy shopping for a new outfit. I quite expected to see some price tags still attached. It was also evident that hairdressers had been working overtime. Not many had my wash, dry and fly hairdo. But we all had put on a few pounds and no one seemed to care.

I toured the old school, which is now used by Stratford Theatre for various jobs. Our teachers, known as Masters, had either died or were in care facilities. When the program started, the Master of Ceremonies suggested that we sing the school song. A silence hung over the room. By a showing of hands, 90% of us couldn’t even remember that the school had a song. Don’t you love it.

I went purposely to see the three girls I had boarded with. Sadly, I was told that one had passed away, one had moved to Winnipeg and the other couldn’t be located. This reunion turned out to be a sad and disappointing one for me. Too much had happened over the years. I came to the conclusion, that maybe we shouldn’t try to travel back in time. Just leave the past, in the past.

Family Reunions:

Family reunions are a whole different category. When I was a kid, it was easy to arrange for these huge family get-togethers for the simple reason that everyone was more or less living in the same community or just an hour or so car ride away. The very old to the very young, attended. Because visiting was the major source of entertainment, no one wanted to miss out on the fun. What great times. These get-togethers resulted in a wonderful connection with my cousins that has lasted throughout all these years.

Unfortunately, as the older generations die out, reunions are going through a transformation. Who are the organizers of the extended family reunions today? The answer is, my generation. We are the ones who plan, organize and reach out to the clan in an effort to bring about a family gathering. The younger people are more in-tune with friends than with extended family, and I think that is rather sad. I fear these reunions will be no more, when we seniors are gone.

But in the meantime, because we old people are still alive and kicking, family reunions remain a part of our lives. Chuck’s family gathering is coming up. I enjoy this time with them as they are quite the characters. Chuck is one of fifteen children, so there is always lots of competition among them to tell a story about their childhood. I laugh nonstop while I listen to his three sisters aged, 84, 82 and 81 give three totally different descriptions of the same event. Good-natured arguments follow, as to who is telling the story correctly. Meanwhile, I have to decide which report I will believe. Will it be Pat’s book version, Leonore’s movie account or Virginia’s, Believe it or Not, report? I suspect the truth falls somewhere in between fact and fiction. So much fun, so much laughter.

I look into the future when these reunions will no longer exist. Look at the stories, true or not, and the family history that the young people will never hear. There will be cousins they may never meet and other kin connections never made. Family may drive you crazy at times, but they are your family. I hope everyone, in some small way, tries to keep in touch with theirs.