BASKING IN THE ROSY GLOW OF A REINVENTED PAST

THE ROSY GLOW OF WHAT NEVER HAPPENED

The big day was coming up — my 50th high school reunion. I was not going, but somehow, I was on the mailing list. I found myself deluged with email from “The Reunion Group.”

I couldn’t (wouldn’t) read all of them, but every once in a while, I opened one. Just to punish myself. I was always sorry.

The discussion rambled from planning the event, to each person telling the story of his or her far-better-than-my life tale of incredible triumph, to reminiscing about the school song. Which had to be the definition of ” sublime to ridiculous.”

JamaicHSLongView

We never sang that song. Not once because no one knew the words. I did because I found them goofy and memorized them for kicks.

Why do people need to transform an experience rich with a mix of memories — good, bad, and indifferent — into a Lifetime movie re-titled “the best years of our lives?” It wasn’t anyone’s best years. They cancelled our Senior Prom. Due to lack of interest. I know because I actually had a date for the prom, but he and I were the only two people who signed up, so they cancelled it. Which says a lot about the truth of those times.

A few of the “reunion list” people also went to elementary and junior high school with me. We got to know each other better than we ever wanted.
96-Me Young in Maine

Fifty years later, these folks are literally singing the praises of Jamaica High School —  huge, over-crowded, and sometimes dangerous. A school in which if you didn’t get into the “college-bound” group, all you got from the school was a place to sit while being bullied.

Why do these people — most of whom have, at least on the surface led a charmed life — need to cast a rosy glow over a time that wasn’t rosy? My former classmates were intent on reliving a past that never happened.

It was what it was. The whole collective stumbling down memory lane thing seemed a bizarre form of self-hypnosis — or possibly delusions. Why? It’s years later, but I don’t have a sensible answer to that.

High school was far too weird to make good fodder for a daily prompt. I didn’t go to my 50th reunion and if anyone is alive for the 55th, I still won’t. This is as close to a speech about it as I’ll ever make.

33 thoughts on “BASKING IN THE ROSY GLOW OF A REINVENTED PAST”

  1. I have an evolving take on High School. There’s no reinventing that I was a shy outsider and an oddity because of the color of my skin. Race was a BIG thing back in those days when Ike was still POTUS.
    I don’t romanticize about how great it was “back in the day” (Gawd, I hate that cliche) when everyone got along and liked each other. It simply wasn’t true. But I’ve always enjoyed Hollywood’s take on those days because it nourishes my fantasy appetite.
    I enjoy communication with a few classmates who share thoughts about how life has changed over the years.
    Time for another viewing of “A Summer Place” which has been sitting in the DVR maybe waiting for a cold, winter day when the mind can wander away from reality.

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  2. My mum always said the school days are the best of your life – but she left school at 13 because that was the thing to do when you were working class in 1926 I suppose. It is funny how things turn out. I remember our new headmisstress. She was young, as opposed to the grey haired relics we had before, and on our school site on FB everyone sung her praises. Looking back, there was quite a lot I did not agree with in our school. That headmisstress has now died, some of the old girls went to her funeral, she was over 90 and apparently was suffering from dementia eventually. Of course there were praises sung on the FB site, which I did not join in. She never did impress me. Until one admitted that she only suffered under her regime. There was silence and then they all joined in and it eventually she was not so perfect as we were supposed to believe. It just took one person to sum up the courage and tell how bad she actually was.

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    1. I got the feeling that my “classmates” wanted it to be something it never was. They didn’t notice the bullying, the racism, the endless class warfare. The ancient creaking teachers who had nothing to offer and whose classes were a punishment for anyone who wanted to really learn anything. My mother quite school at 14 too. That’s the way it was in their generation. You stopped school, got a job and contributed to the household. If I hadn’t gone to college, I would never have made it to heaven. It was a prerequisite in my family that WE WOULD GO TO COLLEGE because my parents didn’t get the chance. Not a problem for me. But a big problem for my brother who couldn’t (wouldn’t?) hack it.

      I didn’t even try to break through that wall of rosy glowing memories. It was bizarre. The school wasn’t like that. Not at all. Unless we went to different schools.

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  3. Actually this reminds me of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. No-one never tells the truth of how their lives have turned out. A very good friend of mine ended up being married 3 times, I have been married and soon to be divorced twice. Would you tell that to the person who ended up rich and had a fabulous life – no. So no, high school reunions are off limits to me. I don’t want to see all the beautiful people (i.e. the in crowd) again.

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  4. We had our first reunion a few years ago and have been meeting on an annual basis for the last four years. It was an all girls school and we lived there so we got to know everyone very well. We’re just a bunch of old ladies now and we have quite a raucous time of it. It was definitely not the best time of our lives and it is interesting to dissect those situations and look at them from a different perspective.
    Leslie

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  5. I cut all ties with pretty much everyone I knew in high school because it was such a miserable time. Along comes the 20th reunion, and I got tracked down by a girl who just happened to be working at the same hospital I was working. I turned down the invitation politely, but all I could think was, “I hated those people in high school – why would I want to spend time with them now?”

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  6. our 50th was eight years ago. I started getting coy emails from a girl I had known then, suddenly my very best friend in alllll the world, and something snapped in me. there were 30 kids in our class, and the only ones that I keep in touch with are the ones who never left town. Including the man I married. Two of them are neighbors and I really don’t like either one of them.
    But here I am, being bombarded with warm fuzzy confidences from someone who hasnt spoken to me or even sent a card in 30 years.
    I answered her. I mentioned that. I also mentioned that in all the time since the last reunion not one person has bothered to call, write, or visit. That was the last email I got from her. And I suspect the reunion was never held. I figger, if they want to see one another they already have.

    I suspect they want to paint it in glowing colors because they can’t face the reality of how awful it was. And it was awful. Anxiety, sex (or no sex), acne, sex (or no sex), boyfriends, girl friends, swirling cliques, distinct lines between catholics and protestants, between the high steppers and the kids who had one good outfit to his or her name…

    I think it was just so bloody boring that no one wants to admit that. and when you look back, how petty it all was. Years ago i saw a recap program on 60 minutes about a middle america highschool having its 25th reunion. One of the girls (I think she may have been prom queen) never left town, married the highschool football hero. He settled into being a gas jockey and she was the housewife. She was still a pretty girl, and she got very wistful when she said, “what happened? we had such dreams…” and I think she felt she had been handed a bill of goods. I think so , too.

    One older woman went through our receiving line shaking hands with everyone, and saying, like some kind of insane mantra, “enjoy this, this is as happy as you ‘ll ever be again…” All I could think was, if that’s so, the next 60 years or so are going to be living hell…

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    1. I had a similar experience with someone who I knew in elementary school. She was one of the original mean girls and I was her frequent victim. Suddenly, she wants to be pals. I finally pointed out that she was one of the mean girls and all those warm fuzzy memories were bullshit. I guess she didn’t like it because I never heard from her again.

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  7. If there were any reunions for my class, I was never notified of them, nor would I have gone to one anyway. I didn’t care for high school one bit back then and still don’t now. I never made friends (real friends, anyway), I have zero contact with anyone who went to school with me, and I have no desire to relive those days at all. I’d bet if there was a 20th reunion in 2013, they tried finding everyone through Facebook, which is good since I’m not there…

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    1. I didn’t hear from ANY of these people for all 50 years since graduation. They probably found me on Facebook or my blog. I was impressed by how every single person had a life story so perfect. Doctors, lawyers, CEOs, and at least one Rabbi … and then, me. So why did they need to rewrite history? It was a big city high school with all the usual issues. You know. Gangs. Racism. Bullying. Overcrowding. Malicious teachers. Incompetent teachers. Our vice principal packed a 45 on his hip and rumor has it, he shot at least one student. I think maybe I was on a different plane of reality than my classmates.

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  8. My 40th is coming up this July and you wrote EXACTLY what I have been thinking!! The Facebook group makes me want to throw up with all their rose colored glasses looking back- pretending that all was so great and it would be so great to see each other. In the last 2 weeks 2 classmates have died suddenly, so someone actually posted that we all should make an effort to come because it might be our last chance to see one another. Anyone I was interested in keeping in touch with I have, and the others… enough said! You hit a nerve 🙂

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    1. Garry went to his and he came back feeling like he’d gone into the Twilight Zone. I don’t understand why people need to change the past. I don’t see how that would make anything better, or make anyone FEEL better.

      I don’t know anyone who went to a class reunion and came back having had a great time. Sometimes … interesting. But I think “interesting” is as good as it gets.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I went to my 20th, and contrary to the prevailing thoughts expressed here I had a great time. Especially when the girlfriend of the toughest jock in school, back then, began hitting on me. Who’d a thought?

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  9. There was this bully who set out to destroy me for reasons that seemed good to her (and which I now recognise) and almost succeeded….
    It seems she hasn’t changed, and apparently our last reunion was loud with rumblings about how awful she was and always had been, and how she’d always scared everyone into submission. (Pity I didn’t know it back then.) So I’m half contemplating going to the next reunion if I’m still alive, for the sheer pleasure of telling her to get back in her box/get therapy/get out, which I don’t think anyone else will ever be game to do but I now will.
    Hideous when you think of the power a 16/17 y/o girl can wield.

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    1. And how much damage they do. The scars that kind of stuff leaves take many years to heal and are never forgotten. I have never understood bullies. I don’t get why they do it, what makes them tick. They made my life miserable, made my son miserable, made my granddaughter miserable. Made so many kids hate their lives and with all the changes in our culture and all the PR? The bullies still rule the schools.

      Personally? I wouldn’t go anywhere near any reunion. But if it makes you feel better, what the hell. Why not.

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      1. Looking back, I stood in the way of something she desperately wanted, which is a bit sad for a kid of 16. But she’s not 16 now and she hasn’t learned. That’s the bit I can’t accept. I don’t go to reunions either, I was told about her ongoing toxicity later

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