55th high school graduation anniversary: a weekend gift

I'm back from my 55th anniversary of graduation from high school. I thought about being coy and just telling you I'd been to a class reunion -- but there didn't seem a point to keeping my age, 72, hidden. I'm sure a desultory search would find it. Further, I'd guess most of my reflections about revisiting high school are not news. I'd forgotten almost everyone. I had a few shivers of memory of being on the outside, out of step, longing to belong. I thought most of us looked pretty good; a few, not so much.

But I'm still chewing on a few kernels of insight. First, these are lovely women I went to school with. A dozen or so of us turned our chatter late in the evening to telling briefly what had happened to us since graduation. Everyone spoke honestly about marriage, divorce, a love child, a child who died, the choices that have made us who we are. I described seeing, when I was 22, a destitute family living in northern Colorado in November in a dirt floor shack heated by a bucket of coal. It changed me. Other stories were bigger and tougher; we brought ourselves and shared ourselves.

Three in our class that we know of were pregnant at graduation. Two were put out of school, didn't graduate, are not in the yearbook. The third didn't tell and walked up the graduation aisle. One has since died, but they all have come to reunions and told their stories of early marriage, putting off college, struggling financially. No bitterness, but a profound recognition that things have changed.

None of us were rich. A few of us drove around to look at our old houses in a neighborhood where they are being torn down and replaced by mansions. We paid a-dollar-a-day tuition in high school. We agreed that the nuns gave us a good education, and a few grandmas of current students report that quality education continues.

We were a class of 180, and about 30 of us entered the convent in the years after graduation. I'm the only nun left. What is that about? I think it illustrates that the changes in religious life in the late '60s and '70s had nothing to do with the decrease in vocations. The times, they were indeed a-changin', and most young women found a better fit for their lives in the so-called world.

That's it. A brief immersion in past memories, what's left of them, and a tantalizing glimpse of who we all have become. A weekend gift.


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