Summer is the traditional season for a certain type of gathering, class reunions. Recently, I’ve talked to both reunion avoiders and devotees of these events that typically cycle every five years. As for me, I’ll admit up front that I’m not a huge fan.
For those who have a strong reunion gene, my former college roommate Gary Van Cott never misses an opportunity to gather with groups with whom he once shared experiences, including one three summers ago when I met Gary and Greg Swick, another roommate as well as a friend from grade school who has for years called himself a New Hampshire Man, when we convened at a Pennsylvanian lakeside cottage to try to revise our Miami University history.
At any rate, I don’t want to make it sound as if I’ve never espoused reunions. As a matter of fact, when it comes to my classmates who roamed the halls of a much, much larger Lima Central Catholic, a school now no more than a couple of dozen or so students larger than my 1969 class by itself, I did attend the five-, the 10-, the 15- and the 20-year gatherings.
I remember the very first the most. At just 23 years old, still just kids really, although you could have never told us that then, we gathered in our old lunch room at the school to brag about our college successes and our careers, still in the embryo stage. We thought it so funny that in the very room where we gathered each school day to try to unravel the mysteries of the pizza burger and worry about that pimple that sprang to life overnight, we now were cracking open cans of Bud.
As a matter of fact, while I’ve long forgotten my classmates’ prevarications as well as those I disseminated as we tried to impress one another from the 10th, 15th or 20th, I do remember listening to the tales of one particular classmate, Steve Wells, who eschewed college for a life on the rodeo circuit. While I can’t attest to the veracity of all of his tales, I do remember his moving far too stiffly for a typical 23-year-old, no doubt, the result of his trying to hang on to the back of a Brahma bull for 8 seconds.
As for the other three I attended, I also remember the 20th, when we were far more established in our careers and still looking as good as folks tend to look before that magical age of 40. It was at the Milano Café on Market Street some seven years before flames destroyed it in 1996. That night prompted a couple recollections.
One, because the Milano on Market was the same site as my prom, memories flooded back of my most embarrassing dancing moment in an anthology filled with them. While trying to score some slow-dance points, from a frame far slimmer than today’s version, there slid my cummerbund on a dimly lit dance floor, tangling around my feet and causing me to pitch forward, almost taking both myself and a horrified gowned girl who took it as an awkward attempt to grope to the floor. Needless to say, that was our last date.
I also remember that, because we were still of the age that we just didn’t know when enough should have been enough, at a post-reunion hospitality-room affair across the street at the Travel Lodge, in the wee hours of the morning following a Square Fair Saturday, there came a sudden, sharp knock on the door from someone from a nearby room complaining about the noise level. When the door swung open, there stood none other than lead singer David Clayton-Thomas, who brought all of his Blood, Sweat and Tears to Lima to play the Square Fair.
However, shortly after my 20th, I somehow, somewhere, lost the desire to gather for such affairs, and I haven’t been back. The last one marked 45 years in 2014. I think perhaps, at least for me, the gatherings reached the point that recalling the far younger version of myself from the past made it somewhat more difficult to live in the present.
As age cuffed me around as it does us all, I think the gatherings grew too depressing for me, which is why I also resisted the call to attend a mid-five-year-cycle gathering at the end of August, organized by a former classmate who’s been living in California for years and decided to put on a 65th birthday party for all of us who flung our mortarboards skyward behind the school in May of ’69.
Next week, let me put a cork in this reunion-discussion bottle with a couple of tales from one who has resisted the urge to reconvene and one thrilled to do just that.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.