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.