(This is written to my high school class.)
Back in 2013 I wanted to write something reflecting upon our 40th reunion. I never ever thought I would be ecstatic about a reunion! Never! But I was.
If you knew me at West Hills or Bearden, you know how shy I was, and most likely saw me as sweet and possibly even smart. The smart part came mostly from the glasses I wore, along with how quiet I was. I must have been studious, right? Well, kind of. I was, and yet socially, I struggled, not knowing how to be me, nor how to be content with myself.
High school was a true challenge. I did have friends and relied on them greatly, and yet sometimes even with them I didn’t quite know where I belonged. I was always trying to fit in. Academics, especially Math were a challenge. I remember Mr. Jenkins getting mad at me for not understanding geometry! For years, looking at my BHS yearbook was a painful exercise; it showed what a wallflower I truly was, revealing how shy and isolated I was back then.
I tried, I really did. I invited three guys (separately) to the TWERP dance one year. I was turned down by each one. I did not go to a single dance in high school. When I lived in Vermont my hospital had a holiday party with a prom theme. I was angry at first due to my painful memories, but I actually fun and now have a prom picture to show for it!
What I’m trying to express is that life at BHS was not easy for me and that my memories of those days were filled with pain. I did attend our 10th reunion, had a nice time and enjoyed reconnecting with friends such as Marion Cook and Aimee Fuller. Then there was a huge gap where I heard nothing about a reunion… until our 40th. I learned that there were others who were unsure about attending another reunion, given the mixed feelings that some of us shared. Some of us chatted via email and messaging, sharing our uncertainty about returning to the “scene of the crime”. Did we really want to go?
After many conversations and pondering, I attended and am so glad I did. High school walls seemed to melt away. Walls of exclusion and fear were gone. Popular kids talked to the quiet ones and we learned that the designations of the past were not important, that we had much in common or at the very least we were interested in one another’s lives. We were concerned about those known to be ill and deeply saddened to have lost many of our class to early death. I learned that we are people with a shared history, with memories of Coach Smelcher calling out “LiBerry” for those who wanted to leave study hall and proceed to the library, memories of band trips, plays, football games and more.
I came away from the reunion filled with hope and with joy. To quote John Wesley, I was “strangely warmed.” Our class was something to believe in! I connected with people I had never talked with before. I knew that if I needed something I could call almost anyone in our class for advice or a favor. I was on a high for weeks after our gathering. My favorite parts were the more informal ones, the first night at the McCamy’s and then the Sunday brunch, the only down side was that I could have used more time!
Whether our class needed to be redeemed in anyone else’s mind or not, I came away from that weekend in November with a sense that I belonged. I am grateful for a shared history that with some goes back to 3rd grade when we moved to Knoxville, and connection with others that I did not recognize until we met for our 40th. And of course, new ones were formed.
I am extremely grateful for you ALL, even if we did not know one another. If someone were to ask me about a transformative time in my life, our 40th reunion would definitely come to mind. Our class gave me a healing gift and I will be forever grateful. Thank you.