Class Reunions – What We Have that Counts


In anticipation of our 50-year reunion, we’re sharing this article written by the late Lynn Wisman of Mason City, Iowa. Lynn gave us a lot to think about this year.

Months later, when nothing remained but the memories and the expensive black dress I couldn’t afford, it came to me. The thought had surfaced more than once and I turned away from it, told myself it wasn’t true.

But truth doesn’t die and the truth then and now is that high school reunions do not begin as an opportunity to see old classmates. That is how they end.

Ten years after graduation, it’s about what we “have.” I have this estate … this boat … this degree … this job … this six-figure income … live in this suburb … have this membership . . have great abs … children in private schools … have a Porsche … a great handicap in golf … a personal trainer … this summer cottage … this girlfriend. Say, by the way, do you fool around? Hey, just joking. But seriously, did you come alone?

A 20-year reunion is when the Haves still have it, but . . . still have most of my hair . . . worried about the company downsizing … but she’s fat now … he’s an alcoholic … going broke paying alimony to three wives … but can’t change horses in the middle of the stream … had this operation … but they’re implants … they live so far away … but saving for retirement now … lost out to a younger exec. Say, you look great! Always had this crush on you. Did you say you’re here alone?

The 30-year reunion is when it starts to shine: It’s the year the Haves check it at the door. What we have isn’t important anymore. It’s important to be here, to see you, to see him, to see her. To remember the fun … Hi- Dive … Senior Week … the tug of war … the prom … the beer parties … the broken curfews … the souped-up cars … Senior Skip Day … the night Buddy Holly died. To remember pleated skirts and saddle shoes and the hangout where we smoked our first cigarette and felt sophisticated.

We were doing head counts long before the 40th reunion. Many of our classmates are gone now, never to attend a reunion again. Some of the Haves are now Have-Nots: wear a pacemaker … use a walker … can’t golf like I used to … doctor said it was too much steak and booze . . . have a new heart … the bank foreclosed when the company folded … look too bad in my workout gear … sure miss some of the guys that are gone now … plan to retire soon if I live that long. Say, aren’t you in the room next to me? Didn’t see your husband. Oh, he’s gone now? Sorry about that but have I got a deal for you. I take Viagra now … .

Now comes the summer of the 50th. A bittersweet time in our lives, perhaps the last time we’ll all be together again.

It may be the last reunion, the last time we’ll see our high school friends, the last time we’ll dance to the music of Buddy Holly. It may be the first time that it doesn’t matter to anyone who has what or who never had it to begin with.

The joy of having material things loses ground as the years evaporate like a silent and unwelcome ghost in the night, leaving changes that far overshadow what we have.

For it was with those once tender young hearts that we learned one of the most valued lessons in life: Friends, and the memory of what once was, are priceless possessions. It’s the one thing we all have.

You may not remember me but I remember you. And it’s good to see you. I only care that you’re here and that you seem happy. I don’t care that we are fat or thin or rich or poor. I care only about the years that are gone and the friendships we once had.

It took nearly a lifetime for all of us to understand the real value of yesterday.

Perhaps now we will better cherish the promise of tomorrow.

So, did you say you’re here alone?

Lynne Wisman is a freelance writer and photographer living in Mason City. She is the author of newspaper columns, published essays, and she writes for business and trade journals.