As I carve out some time to write this month’s column, I find myself regularly distracted by the dings and beeps generated by new social media posts related to my 40th high school reunion.
I know, I know – you cannot believe I graduated from high school in 1982 (would you believe I was 10 when I received my diploma?).
I can hardly grasp the thought that it has been 40 years since I strode through the halls of Stamford (CT) High School, a historic structure approaching 100 years of use. It is a place my own mother, and many relatives, also attended throughout the second half of the 20th century.
Yet the dusty yearbook I dug out of the closet in anticipation of our celebration July 23 confirmed the information. I am that old.
The challenge of waxing poetic about a class reunion is to avoid sounding cliché. Is there anything that has not yet been written about classmates gathering after decades apart, ready to relive old memories and reminisce about the good ol’ days?
Perhaps nothing. Having attended several of my own reunions previously and being able to reconnect with many old friends through the Internet, I was not sure whether this 40th year would offer any fresh emotions.
But coming out of this pandemic, and with many of us approaching 60 years of age, this year’s gathering felt very different. Sure, there were a few more conversations about physical ailments and health insurance plans – and grandkids. However, people also were more reflective and more appreciative of the paths we shared back in the early ’80s.
There was some sadness over classmates lost. Some chats were marked by pain, as classmates shared challenges endured during two-and-a-half years infected by COVID-19.
But mostly the room was filled with laughter and smiles, hugs and reflections from many years ago.
The richness of my high school years is based in the incredible diversity that filled the halls of our school. Even more than just the colors of our skin, the variety of economic and cultural backgrounds created a broad and deep microcosm of the world we eventually would enter.
Acknowledging that diversity was a common theme of our reunion throughout the weekend. So was the firm belief that we all were in some way boosted by others during our teen years, as we set off to attend college or trade school or begin military service or enter the work force.
The conversations led to a commitment to launch a scholarship fund that will provide future Black Knights a hand up as they are ready to build their lives after high school. It would be significant, indeed, if the fund led to a reunion in 2062, when someone would reflect back on the opportunities they were given because a bunch of old-timers kicked in a few bucks to build a scholarship.
One of my classmates said it best when asked what her favorite part of the reunion turned out to be.
“It wasn’t just about us. It was about us sharing all our different experiences and wanting to leave a legacy of helping our future young Black Knights.”
Another said, “The joy, the gratitude vibe was the highlight. We helped shape an experience that allowed for a thousand rich conversations and appreciation for the friends and school that shaped us.”
“The night had a different vibe/feeling than any other reunion. It was ‘soulful,’ “ said a third classmate. “There was a connection through gratitude that we were 1) alive and able to attend and 2) aware of how SHS provided an experience that few we have met over the 40 years can understand. There was palpable love and joy all night long, with people genuinely thrilled to see one another.”
It is gratifying to know that after four-plus decades of being out in the real world, it is possible to slip back into the best emotions of those years. Committing to leave a legacy for future generations is a direct result of the impact that time made on many of us.
Cliff Wiltshire is editor and publisher of the Clintonville Spotlight.
To make a donation to Class of 82 Legacy Fund, please click here.