In July of 2012 I went to my High School reunion. It was a whole school reunion with all the classes that graduated from Midway High School. Ever. I dragged my feet in signing up and making flights because first I assign myself the title introvert and feel in my gut all the reasons I may be one. And second because I was not inspired to want to dredge up so many life events from the last 38 years that mostly meant losing. Losing a person, place, dreams or the momentum we had when we were 17. I left in 1974. Gains are harder to talk about and somehow more invisible.
Going far away to college surprised me. I called my best friend from ‘the lake’ in Minnesota to see if she wanted to be my roommate at nearby North Dakota State. She told me she was going to Arizona State. What? I hung up the expensive long-distance call to Fargo and asked mom and dad if I could go to ASU. Mom called the Tempe University to mail us a catalog and application, Dad said yes, he wanted me to ‘get the hell out of here I don’t want you marrying a farmer’ (I’ll never know if he was joking or not) — but I also knew they already had my SAT scores because the day we took the test in Grand Forks it was -40degrees with the wind chill. I filled in those ovals to send my scores to: Arizona State, Florida State, Hawaii State. So at the last minute, just as I graduated, most likely I got in to ASU because I was from ND and showed cattle.
Our graduating class from Midway High School was 46. We had a 5-year reunion that I went to (and got the award for coming from the farthest away) and I there was another reunion that I didn’t attend. Last summer there were about 20 from our graduating class, almost 1000 in all at the dinner and dance then we scattered to our small home towns of Forest River and Gilby for parades and street dances over the next two days.
I loved it.
Friends of my brother Bill hugged me, sometimes held me in missing him too; being reintroduced to my brother Gregg’s friends quietly reminded me of his momentum and the influence and impact of his staying, his amazing family and work. Seeing my friends gestures, hearing their voices, attitudes and listening to their wide swatches of life between then and now reassured me we don’t-change-all-that-much but somehow we grow into ourselves with random false-cautiousness. Saying hello to crushes and that first real boyfriend introduced that adrenaline thing in my chest when I saw that incredible familiar smile or sat in that familiar silence no longer awkward but intentional and comfortable.
Because it was an all-school reunion there were graduates from for-ever back who went to school with my dad through to the class of 2012. The continuum of something shared and not-so-much-lost struck me as the most important and affirming take-away that still infiltrates and stands out as a binding thread into other ‘clumps’ of my life here and there. This was a special place; named Midway because it was midway between a scattering of very small towns in that portion of the Red River Valley. It was small and bound by farming which lent an amplified connection to seasons, weather, hard work and that black loam spread from the Red River thousands of years ago. High school sports (basketball!) were big for us all, running track and music kept me busy and mostly out of trouble. Our parents knew all the other parents and grandparents knew each other, on and on… family myths and real history, land ownership, families marrying into families, who ‘left the area’ and who came back… (insert Lake Wobegon here only a lot smaller) is this place.
So now I don’t see these sections of my own growing up, the people and places as so discrete. Not like periods in the paragraph, but maybe commas. When I left for Maine after staying seventeen years in Arizona, that jolt of a move too was only a comma. And in visiting the place I grew up, re-meeting my friends, looking across that banquet room over 909 other graduates of Midway High School, no matter their age or their path after graduation, we shared something. Maybe this is the same with all high school graduates, but something else is shared over those fields that surround that place that bound us together. So the weekend wasn’t about losing, and the gain isn’t so invisible. I’m still learning.