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  • Writer's pictureJulie Osborne

My 40th Reunion Reflections

I almost didn’t go. Why would I? To be honest, besides Facebook updates, there are only a handful of high school friends still in my life. And after 40 years, what would we even have in common? “I don’t do life with these people. Why would I go to a reunion?” I pondered. The more I thought about it, the more staying home seemed like the best choice. And with the fall weather arriving, a comfy sweatpants’ day snuggled on the couch with chili simmering in the Crock-Pot seemed like a better option.

Despite my temptation to forego the reunion, a few persuasive texts and calls from fellow classmates pulled me out of my comfortable avoidance, and I bought a ticket. A week later, with 80’s music blaring, I headed north on I-65 ready to embark on a trip down memory lane – although it was difficult to remember anything at all, especially names. Even after flipping through the yearbook, there had been little to no recollection of many people in our class of 500+ graduates. I wondered, “Did I even know them back then?” Why was I going again?

As I arrived at the reunion entrance with lifelong friend Beth, who had been by my side for the many ups and downs of the past 40 years, we paused to take a selfie. Neither of us had a clue about how to take a good selfie, but we gave it our best shot. Cellphones weren’t around back in 1983. Neither were computers. So much had changed since our high school days, I thought, as we walked in.

Every event has a planner, and this one was no exception. For months, emails and Facebook posts had arrived to make sure every single detail was covered and people would actually show up. And they did – 120 in total! It was an awesome turnout made possible by our leader/organizer extraordinaire, Denise Janis Millar. She spearheaded not only this reunion

Cheryl & Denise

but all of the ones prior – this one, flying solo. When she greeted me at the entrance table (with nametags – THANK YOU, DENISE), gratitude consumed me as it became instantly clear that one person can make a difference. One person can create a community – or at least keep one going. That person was Denise. Guilt set in as I glanced around at the decorations, room setup, photo booth, etc. All I did was show up.

As the night began, familiar faces appeared. A big hug from Cheryl arrived almost immediately, followed by a trip to the dessert table that I had spotted in the corner and

knew she had personally created. It was a work of art with perfectly iced cupcakes splashed with gold and black sprinkles and cookies etched with our graduation year that looked too beautiful to eat. Appetizers would be coming out soon, but based on my sampling of the sweets, the snacks for the event were nailed – thanks to Cheryl.

I lingered at the dessert table for a while and then turned to catch a glimpse of familiar

youthful photos nearby. A single candle had been lit in front of them. Approaching the

memorial display, my body felt numb at the sight of our classmates who were no longer with us. A valedictorian, a professional musician, an editor, a wife, a father. So young.

So much potential and life ahead. As I read the memorial poem the words touched me: "Our classmates who have passed away, in our hearts and thoughts they stay. Until that time we meet again, a candle lit we will remain. In honor of our life-long bond, we forged with those now passed beyond..." It was a surreal moment that reminded me that every day is a gift. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. I needed to remember that. I needed to remember them.

It was an emotional start to the reunion but a necessary one. Hugs, toasts, photos, and small talk followed. When moments arrived to talk – really talk – conversations got deep quickly, and a common theme began to emerge. The past 40 years were not what many of us had expected in our carefree high school days. The past 40 years had been hard – filled with broken relationships, divorce, death, health issues, addictions, struggling children, and career challenges. Back then, of course, we had no clue. I know my biggest senior-year concerns were ACT scores, college applications, and what to wear to homecoming. And then there was that Variety Show debacle. I thought my life was over.

But that’s a story for another time…

As the night moved on, bodies packed the bar area. It had become the reunion hangout for many – kind of like the smoking lot back in the day. From the classroom window, I would see it in the distance but wouldn’t dare go near it. I was not a cool kid – but none of that mattered anymore. The burnouts, band members, cheerleaders, Towne Criers, and “Senior Guys” – we were all together now, sharing our lives and some laughs about high school highlights and, of course, our most memorable moments. My favorite was when Brock shared the story of asking his high school crush to prom. Her response was, “I’ll go with you if Sam doesn’t ask me.” Of course, she had no memory AT ALL of this conversation from decades ago – she couldn’t even remember if she did indeed go with Sam! Forty years of apologies poured out to Brock as we laughed together. We were all so young back then.

As I rewind our time together in my mind, I must confess that one of my favorite reunion memories actually occurred on my drive home the next day. I had reconnected with fellow cheerleader Kathy, and with lots of time in the car I gave her a call. We shared more memories and heartaches, both of us being divorced, and we vowed to connect soon as Indianapolis and Columbus are only two hours apart. She also shared a story of how on our high school graduation day she sat next to a guy she had never met during her four years at FVHS. (So I wasn’t crazy when I had flipped through the yearbook and couldn’t remember half the people on the pages!) Ironically, they ended up dating for over a year. The fun memories shared on that ride home filled my heart, and as we said our goodbyes, I’ll never forget her parting comment about the reunion, “It felt like home.”

As her words resonate with me now, I understand what she meant. In a strange way, the history we had growing up through our formative years created a common bond that did make our time together feel like coming home.

That’s why I hope to see you all again at our next reunion. The crowd will perhaps be smaller and, sadly, the pictures on the memorial wall will likely grow. So let’s make the most of our time together. And please feel free to share a memory below.

Here’s to you, FVHS class of 1983. Until we meet again ….

(Photos provided by Denise Janis Millar)


Meet Author Julie Osborne

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