Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reunion

A couple of weeks ago I went to a school reunion. It was such fun. I know there are those who would never attend such things, but I’m insatiably curious. Also, I’ve known some of these people since I was five years old – even if I haven’t seen a few for a long time – which makes for a strangely intimate sort of relationship. Almost like meeting a blog friend: you have a lot of common ground.

We attended a famous Edinburgh girls’ school, many of us from age five till age eighteen. From age five to ten, there were two classes – I was in the class for slightly younger girls. When we were ten, however, extra pupils came to the school and we were divided into ability streams: top, middle and bottom. Judging people at the age of ten is not necessarily very accurate; however, I was put in the top class and so from then on, my friends mainly came from this group.

My friends B, M (the one who tragically now has dementia), and I organised the first reunion, for this class only, twenty years after we all left school. That was in 1988. Almost the whole class attended, though we were unable to contact two of our number. Everyone else was in touch with someone who was in touch with someone… . Actually, I have to admit that one of these two was the only person I wasn’t terribly keen on at school, so I didn’t try very hard to find her. The other one I liked a lot, but she seemed to have dropped out of the loop.

The first reunion was a great success. At that point we were about thirty-eight years old and some of the class were doing very well in life. One of the slightly eccentric girls was chief accountant of a large firm, for example; two were university lecturers; we had several hospital consultants and so on. Those of us who had less impressive careers, doing things like teaching, tended to have smallish children who took up our time and talents.

We had another reunion five years later which was not quite so well attended, though still most people came. We had located the two missing girls and they came to this event. The person I didn’t like much was still not quite my favourite – though I regret to report that she had somehow been transformed into easily the best-looking of us all – where's the justice in that? - but the other one was sweet.

And then somehow we never arranged another gathering, though we did think about it.

The recent reunion was organised by the school – it was a lunch to which those who left in a year ending in -8 were invited. There were two ladies from 1938, while the youngest ones had left in 1998 and all years in between were represented. A few of the “girls” who attended our group had been in the other two classes and I hadn’t seen them since we were eighteen – though in some cases we’d been in the same class from five to ten. Most people, however, I’d seen at our last reunion. But that had been fifteen years ago.

I was slightly nervous about it. To be honest, I was faintly anxious that my career would seem a bit less than starry. I had nine years as a stay-at-home mum to my three children, went back to work part-time for the next few years before going full-time again, and have never been particularly ambitious. I prefer teaching to administration, which is the fate of those high up the career ladder in education. I knew that at least one of my classmates was a university professor and that others were considerably better-off financially than we are. It didn’t stop me going, but I did wonder whether any of this might matter.

It didn’t. Not a bit. Everyone seemed just the same; forty years was like nothing. The professor had invited us all back to her rather grand flat and we sat around all afternoon eating strawberries, drinking wine and talking of our youth. It was just lovely. One of the hospital consultants, who had been head girl – and was still in charge of us all by force of personality – went round and collected email addresses from everyone (not that she’s circulated them yet, I would have to say) and there was talk of a weekend away for our sixtieth birthday. The good-looking one was still good-looking, but hey, surely she's got to start deteriorating by the next time?

We missed M, though, and someone had the terrible news that another of our classmates, E, also has advanced dementia. What are the chances of that? Two out of twenty-eight of us. Shiver. I hope it wasn't anything to do with the school lunches. And we remembered my dear friend D, who was tragically killed when she was twenty-three by a car that mounted the pavement. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

Which I would do, if I just had a bit more spare time.

13 comments:

Scottish Nanna said...

What a lovely story of your school reunion It must have been fun.I have a girlfriend in Aberdeen that I went to school with and we have kept in touch for 47 years.we used to write but now we email its easy but it would be nice to see her but Australia is a long way away from Scotland and we both have health problems.
Hugs Mary.

fifi said...

How delightful!
I never was too ambitious really but I have ended up doing almost exactly what I wished...it just took longer than I expected!

So nice to still be in touch with all of those girls!

Is the picture of the school?
Not the moonlit one I saw then?

elena jane said...

ahh, what nice reunions. i am encouraged to attend mine this coming autumn, i have missed all the others....a fun evening out would be ideal of course :)
thx for stopping by my blog!

Thimbleanna said...

What a fun post Isabelle. How fortunate you are to remember people from your childhood. We moved around so much that I don't have any contacts from growing up except for family. There's one friend from high school that I've kept in touch with, but that's it. No reunions for me. So, I love to see that you can enjoy yours for me! If you find any spare time, please send it over the big blue sea!

Stomper Girl said...

I've never done a school reunion because I moved 8 hours drive away, but I wasn't very keen on most of my school-mates. Yours sounds fun, and I did enjoy hearing that your Head Girl was still running things.

Tracey Petersen said...

Clever idea to have anyone who graduated in a year ending in -8. It would have meant lots of memories over lots of years.

meggie said...

My friend of 60+ years & I discussed a coming reunion this year. Neither of us are going, & neither of us are sorry! curious.

Linds said...

I think a lot has to do with the kind of school you attended, Isabelle. I went to a similar school, and my great friend in Scotland, near Edinburgh, and I met when we were 5, and have been the best of friends ever since. All girls. Single sex school, and academic power house. And I can tell you where most of the 110 of us who matriculated together are today. Scattered to the 4 corners of the earth, but we still know where everyone is!

And the plainest of the lot married some gorgeous French count and is living in the south of France. Sigh.

rooruu said...

I wouldn't underestimate your own achievements - there's nothing wrong with choosing the teaching rather than admin path, and a whole bunch of kids are grateful that you have.

They're oddfish things, school reunions, though - they do prompt one to compare, and wonder how your own life measures up. But then you haven't made your choices to suit the vagaries of imagined responses at a school reunion, but to live your own path, making the best decisions and choices you could.

(One should probably view "It's a wonderful life" before attending any school reunion!)

Cheers

Ruth

Lucy said...

Glad it was fun! Tall Girl, Frizzylogic and I all went to our 20th one, it was OK I guess, I was about the biggest underachiever but who's fault was that? I felt with hindsight it was all a bit superficial, but perhaps the longer the gap the more meaningful it becomes... and the managing organising types do always seem to carry on that way, don't they!

Anne said...

Loved reading that story. I went overseas quite young then moved away from my home town and now days I only keep in touch with one old school friend. A bit sad really so treasure those times you have. On a different note - the travel friends I made - we still keep in contact. LOL I married one of them!

Molly said...

Lovely story. This kind of stuff makes me drool, because I went to school with the same group of girls, give or take a few along the way, from Kindergarten all the way to Leaving Cert [high school graduation.] But I've never attended a reunion, sob! Because I'm always so far away....
Lovely idea for you collective sixtieths...

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