Ford column: Ferocious fun at reunions
By Emily Ford
Surely, I lived someone’s nightmare.
I attended not one but two 20th high school reunions this summer.
My annual South Dakota pilgrimage started and ended with nerves, laughter, memories, surprises and a fair amount of alcohol.
I graduated from Watertown High School as an Arrow, but I started high school in Vermillion as a Tanager. (Of course, you know that a tanager is a small red bird. A ferocious small red bird.)
Since my childhood best friend planned the Vermillion reunion, I was invited to both.
The first reunion in Watertown did start out nightmarishly.
I hadn’t cracked a single yearbook or photo album, and I was totally unprepared for the two-day event that started at a classmate’s farm on the evening of July 4.
Cue the scary movie music.
I played it safe at first, approaching a group of people I knew well. Then I greeted a second group, where I only knew one woman’s name for sure ó the host.
“You don’t remember us, do you?” one of the two remaining men asked, uttering the words you never want to hear at a high school reunion.
“Well, I know this guy is Chuck …” I said slowly, trying to buy time. I remembered them, just not their names.
That was all it took.
“Aw, you remembered us!” they said, each giving me a hug.
Since graduating, I’ve been frustrated with my inability to recall many of my classmates’ names. After doing some soul searching to determine if I was stuck up, I realized that I had only known those 250 people for three years, while many of them had gone to school together their whole lives.
So I’m not a snob after all.
The most embarrassing thing that happened to me wasn’t looking right at Kirstin and called her Keila. It was when Steve Dailey attempted to do the splits on the dance floor and kicked my legs out from under me.
The only thing that broke my incredibly graceful fall was … Steve Dailey.
It was not pretty.
But by then the dance floor was packed with sweaty, screaming Arrows, so I don’t think many people noticed anyway.
When the Tanagers gathered three weeks later, I found that I remembered more people, or remembered them better, at this reunion.
Counting middle school, I had spent an additional year with these kids ó and the class was smaller, just over 100.
Regardless, both reunions were pleasantly, surprisingly, incredibly fun.
Between the two events, we had most of the usual suspects.
Someone had lost 100 pounds. Someone had come out of the closet. Someone “accidentally” showed me a picture on his phone of Victoria Beckham and his daughter, taken at a spa.
Yeah, yeah, I get it. You’re loaded.
Despite some residual obnoxiousness, what I noticed for the most part was a sincere effort to reconnect. My classmates were hilarious and genuine, beautiful and wise, interesting and resilient.
My classmates have lost babies, survived cancer and endured divorce. Some have already buried a parent or a sibling. Some have buried both.
What struck me most was that, finally, we had grown up.
Emily Ford covers the N.C. Research Campus.