The Amazon Trail

High School Reunion 

 

by Lee Lynch

     It’s here: my 50th high school reunion. Fifty years was an unimaginable amount of time when I was 17 and now, like a thunderbolt, that long stretch of life is behind me. My best friend from high school is going to the reunion with her halo of wild dark hair gone white – like mine. What will she see? Trim athletes now bald, pot-bellied and lame? Willowy young girls now wrinkled and thickened? Comfortable retirees who worked, reproduced, and are replacing a generation of old people who once sat on New York City park benches in the sun?

In truth, I’m quite proud of my class of 1963. Three that I know of got caught in the second wave of feminism and became chairs of women’s studies departments. Five of us, at least, have published books. Many taught at the college level. I’m looking forward to hearing the accomplishments of others when my BFF reports in. She urged me to go with her, but she’s a few hours up I-95 from the school and I’m across the continent we studied in school. Also, I felt like the odd girl out back then and I feel just the same now. As she e-mailed, “Wish you were here but you would probably explode.”

Oh, and did I mention a federal judge? Who would have thought one of us, especially a woman, would accomplish as much as she has. If she’d been born ten years earlier she might have gotten as far as president of a PTA.

High school was so long ago, yet so fresh in my mind. I went into it determined to leave my bashfulness behind. I managed to make friends, and also to grow a persona that would mature with me. My poetry was published in our literary magazine; I was gay and proud of it; my ambition, beyond writing, was to be a gym teacher. One foot was in the circle of high school intelligentsia, the other in a sneaker on the tennis and volleyball courts.

An altruistic alumna, who became a librarian, created an internet page for those early sixties classes. By way of introduction, she wrote, “We came of age in the mid-sixties. It is hard to believe the changes we went through and our world went through in the years between 1963 and 1967. Did we make the times or did the times make us?” What a great question for us, for any generation.

Did we help change the world for the better? Well, we sure tried. How many of us died in Vietnam? How many were arrested for protesting that war? How many were active in the civil rights movement? The women’s movement? Gay liberation? Were environmentalists? Pro- or anti-choice activists?  Did any grow their hair, drop acid and become hippies? My BFF was at Altamont when the Rolling Stones were there. Were others at Kent State? I know some were hit with cancer. At least two committed suicide.

Why do I have no desire to be at the reunion? Would it really be too disturbing to see the metamorphoses of these people from dreaming kids to world-weary adults? Only one was a lover and I ran into her out here about 20 years ago. She wanted to stay in touch, but too much water over the bridge for me. I have a very full life, for which I’m grateful, and my seventeenth summer, lovely as it, and she, was, has been over for a long, long time.

Long enough that I’m looking at retirement from my job too. When I checked out the high school page it was clear I’m one of the last to stop working for a living. I feel like a sixties dropout compared to them. I’ve had jobs ever since graduation, but just to scrape by while I gave most of my energy to writing. Looking at the bios on our class pages I see teachers, ad execs, attorneys, designers and engineers, along with those who identify themselves as housewives and mothers. As far as I can see, I’m the only one who boasts of writing queer books or even of being queer.

No, I have no desire to see those folks. We sat in classrooms and passed one another in hallways. We survived high school, adult careers, marriages, marches, the tech revolution, empty nests, losses and successes. Some of us proved to be a waste of space, others made a bit of history or culture or money or offspring. I may be odd girl out again, but I have no time to review milestones. In my head, I’m still 17, anxious to get on with writing future stories, to, finally, making a lasting marriage, to changing the world.

 

Copyright Lee Lynch 2013

12 Responses to “The Amazon Trail”


  1. 1 Connie July 9, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    Lee, you have the courage to say what most won’t. Wonderful, as usual.

    Like

  2. 2 Sharon E. Owens July 9, 2013 at 12:41 PM

    I enjoyed your column–and enjoyed seeing you at GCLS. My 50th HS reunion will be in two years. I also have not gone back for any reunions and probably won’t for this one, having been odd girl out in so many ways. Even though I didn’t know yet that I was a Lesbian, I knew I didn’t want marriage and kids. Then there was being the only Black kid in the school and one of the few political types. I think our generation did change/was changed by the changing world.

    Like

  3. 3 Carol July 9, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    Hello,

    I’m an old friend of Lee’s from high school. Reading her column makes me want to be back in touch with her. I did just send her an email at the address greenhat66@gmail.com but I don’t know if that’s a current email address for her. I wonder if whoever reads this would be willing to send me her email address–or if not that, forward the email I just wrote to her, if I send it.

    Carol Imani

    Like

  4. 4 Wendy Levy July 9, 2013 at 1:49 PM

    I’ve never had any desire to attend school reunions either; of course it would be a tad difficult living in the UK when I was educatedin Australia. Far better in my opinion to look forward rather than back and just like you, or indeed my mother,who even at the ripe old age of 88 said she still remained in her mind as 17.
    I’ll settle for 40!
    I never fitted in at school anyway — far too adventurous for the vast majority of pupils who were happy enough to accept the brainwashing that all they could aspire to was getting married and bringup kids.

    Like

  5. 5 S.A. July 9, 2013 at 5:03 PM

    Thoughtful, as always. Thanks, Lee!

    Like

  6. 6 Shelley July 9, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    Beautifully written, Lee, as always.

    Reunions are always a shock for me. The guys are a lot harder to recognize than the women, but I always paid more attention to the women, so I shouldn’t be surprised. Most of my friends are conservative, though a couple of my male friends were gay. It all seems like such a long ago. I love the way you recount the changes we’ve all lived through.

    Like

  7. 7 Devlyn July 9, 2013 at 9:12 PM

    Lee, it has only been a bit over 30 years since I left high school but it is also a time I dont care to revisit. Infact, I dont remember the names of any of the people I went to school with – too much water under the bridge and a lot more happier memories to think about. Thanks for sharing your story with us though as I enjoyed reading about your fellow students and what they have been up to.

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  8. 8 Pat Bane July 9, 2013 at 10:11 PM

    Great piece Lee, so true. I’ve never been back for a class reunion and have no desire to go.

    Like

  9. 9 Sheri Campbell July 10, 2013 at 12:33 AM

    Lee , you expressed my feeling very perfectly. Although I too was involved in many functions and activities in high school I have no desire to go to a reunion.

    Like

  10. 10 Victoria Oldham July 10, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    Always love reading your thought process, Lee.

    My 20th would be next year, but I have no desire at all to attend. The two people who meant the most to me, I’m still in touch with. One is my first girlfriend, who has a lovely wife and may be attending the writing retreat in Spain, and the other was my best friend. Although she’s far more conservative as an adult, she still tells me she loves and misses me. Out of a class of 400, those were the only two who mattered.

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  11. 11 Andi Marquette July 10, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    I graduated from a class of around 80, in a small-town high school. We all knew each other, and we’d basically known each other since elementary school. I’ve gone to my 10- and 20-year reunions, and I was pleasantly surprised. At my 20th I made a connection that was unexpected and I’ve maintained that connection with my classmate since that reunion. We keep in touch quite a bit, and she’s given me support through some rough patches and I’ve offered support to her through some of her rough patches. We weren’t close in high school (beyond a friendly “hey, how are you” kind of thing), so it’s cool, actually, that we’ve developed this friendship outside of that. In fact, it’s not even really based on our shared high school history. It’s more about who we are now and what we’ve been doing since high school.

    I came out to my high school class at that 20th reunion. The most common response I got? “Um, yeah. We kind of guessed you weren’t straight when we were in high school.” That obvious, huh? I’m sure there are some who aren’t okay with it, but for the most part, it’s been fine. I’m speaking here as a Gen X’er, so my high school experience generationally was very different than Lee’s. She and the women of her generation blazed a lot of trails for kids like me, and gave me the courage to live my truth. Part of that was coming out publicly to my high school classmates. My attitude was, this is me. Screw you if you can’t deal. Well, they surprised me. And that was pretty cool.

    So I don’t mind going to my reunions, if I can, because the town where I grew up is beautiful and I like going back. Also, I like to see how much I’ve grown (hopefully), and where I am now, as opposed to where I was, both literally and metaphorically. Something else I learned at that 20th reunion is that it doesn’t matter to me what other people ended up doing with their lives, as long as they feel happy and productive in whatever ways. I’ve met lots of people in so-called “high-power jobs” who are the unhappiest people ever, so I feel pretty fortunate because I’m pretty happy with how things are going. So for me, it’s been kind of fun to catch up with my classmates at the reunions.

    Having said that, I get why people don’t want to go to their reunions. Maybe it’s different for me because I’m from a small town and spent so much time with my classmates in and out of school, from elementary school through our graduation. Hell, some of my classmates went on to the same university as I did, so we maintained some contact there, as well. Regardless, high school kinda sucked in a lot of ways for me. But I found out it sucked for a lot of other people, too, and we were all just trying to get through and find our ways in the world. So it’s been interesting, for me, to go to my reunions. I might be in a minority, though.😀

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  12. 12 Kim July 12, 2013 at 8:02 AM

    Swore when I left high school I would never go back for a reunion. This year is our 35th and while I’ve been tempted based upon Facebook “friendships” a business trip will keep me from attending. Me thinks it’s probably better that way! Lee as always thanks for sharing a bit of yourself.

    Like


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