A 40th High School Reunion in Maryville, Tennessee

18 06 2010

There’s nothing like 40 years to give you some perspective. I attended the 40th high school reunion of  the Maryville High School class of 1970 on 6/11/10 in Maryville, Tennessee. Over a third of our class showed up along with some spouses and partners. About 8% of our class members are dead…something that seems inconceivable to me. What was their path…and that of their family and friends…that it included a life cut short? Death is an equalizer, showing no favor to the popular classmates who have passed on.

For those us still kicking it, for the most part, our personalities really haven’t changed all that much. The outgoing ones are still outgoing, the quiet ones are still quiet, and the nerdy ones are still nerdy. Not only is death an equalizer, so is aging. It’s fascinating to see how people age differently.

Overall, we look pretty good, but if you look closely, you see a few more wrinkles on some faces. You don’t have to look closely to see the extra pounds that many of us (myself included) now carry. One guy and one gal from the class who are on Facebook have…since the reunion…listed the “Hotties” and it feels like we’re in high school all over again.

There were a few surprises like how many people have never had children or have never been married. A few people are gay…something that wasn’t on my radar at all in high school. At least half of those in attendance still live in the area. Some lived other places, but came back. It is a charming town, so this is understandable.

People were upbeat and I didn’t really hear stories of tragedy and suffering and turmoil unless I knew about them and asked. At our age, I’m sure most people have experienced many ups and downs. One of our classmates dropped dead of a brain aneurysm 11 years ago and his wife…also one of our classmates…talked of the rough road she’d had in raising their children alone afterward.

I heard some talk of careers, but mostly there was talk of children and grandchildren and where you’ve lived and wow, it’s great to see you. After 40 years, the conversations distilled down to what is really important in our lives. We also reminisced about painting the bridge red and black before rival football games with Alcoa High and how tough our English teacher Ms. Miller (whose daughter was one of our classmates and was there) was…and how grateful we were when we went to college.

My Senior High School Photo

What’s really neat is that our spirits are ageless. We may be 57 or 58 years old, but we’re still giggly and fun-loving and witty and engaging and curious. If I closed my eyes…or simply looked past the extra pounds and wrinkles and hair dye…I saw those same classmates who I knew and loved in high school.

A 40th high school reunion is not only a reunion with classmates, but also with the self you were all those years ago. I could instantly erase 40 years of living and step back to being that girl who was living life to the fullest and had the whole world ahead of her. Maybe I’ll decide to stay 17 and continue to see a world of opportunity available to me. Maryville, Maryville High, my family, and those classmates instilled in me that sense of possibility…and I’ll forever be that girl.



3 responses

18 06 2010
Gary Ownsby

Diane, your post was an interesting reflection upon our reunion and life in general. While most personalities had not changed…I did notice that some of those that were “stuck up” in high school reflected that attitude at the reunion. On the other hand, a few of those that I would have previously considered stuck up, had mellowed and acted like real human beings.

While we all gauge “success” a bit differently, many of those that were the class stars, didn’t seem to shine so bright out in the real world. I did notice that many of those that so understated in high school went on to excel at work and life in general. The cliques of high school which were often perceived reflections of social strata, might not have helped pave the way for coping and succeeding in the real world.

I’ve always held to the belief that attitude determines altitude and happiness and achievement is something that must arise from within but be nurtured from without. I’m very happy to have had parents and grandparents that challenged me to achieve, not in a maniacal way but from a sense of what is possible with focus and determination.

So yes, I agree, it’s a choice at any age to focus on the uplifting and the world of opportunity that still awaits those that are willing to look beyond the bumps and bruises of daily life. So no, don’t act your age! 🙂

19 06 2010
Micki Miller Bennett

Diane, let me just say that your writing is one of the highest compliments to pay even in small part to my mother. Again, she would be so proud of your accomplishments, and happy to think she had even a small part in that.

19 06 2010
Mike Phelps

Your comments and reflections on the reunion are just as I would have expected, kind, eloquent, thoughtful, thought provoking and grammatically correct. (that last thanks to Ms. Miller.) It is fitting that you mention her and the fact that most of us didn’t appreciate her demanding approach until college. I was no whiz in high school but in college I was “tested out” of freshman english 101 and 102. My parents almost fell over. The english comp prof. said that 75% of his freshmen class had NEVER WRITTEN any kind of paper, book report, essay etc. He took a look at my first three pager and gave me an A- and said, just come to class and that is your grade for the class! Yes I have really appreciated the teachers at good ole’ MHS.
I was the guy who made a 47% on a trig test in Mr. Pitt’s class and told him that I would never again need trig if I could just get through his class. Imagine my suprise four years later, to find myself as a Machinist Apprentice relearning trigonometry and then using it DAILY for 27 years as a machinist! I really believe that God has a sense of humor.
I credit Ms. Barth with showing me that if you are sure you are right, anything can be questioned. If you look at the yearbook picture of her in class, you will see that her desk is raised by a stack of books under each leg. She told us that the new text books assigned her by the school board didn’t suit her so she had found a use for them.(she was told that she HAD to use them.) Many times since then I have been at a point where I knew that I was right, but it was socially/sensibly not acceptable to question the status quo but like Ms. Barth, I poke sacred cows with a stick. (or a pony tail)
Gary’s observations on the “successes” and measurements thereof are accurate as well. I was particularly impressed with the folks that I remember as shy and selfconsious who have gained confidence and strength from the trials of life. Those trials aren’t so different from the challenges which everybody faces but the way most of us have responded to them is impressive.
I am reminded that, at that time in our lives and the life of our society, many things were being questioned. Racism, abortion, Viet Nam were all challenged by kids like us. It is a testament to our teachers, Like Mrs. Volk, who encouraged us to have original ideas and to look at the glass as half full.

Lastly (off topic) has any generation ever been so blessed with music like we were? From Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Barry to the Beatles, CCR, Three Dog Night, all of Motown, Hendrix, Joplin, Seger, The Beachboys, Jan and Dean (I still own an album marked school side and car side.) The Monkeys, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, The Rolling Stones, where does the list end? And the ironic part is, kids today will dance and tap their feet or even sing along to those ” Golden Oldies” Can you imagine hearing a grade school age child singing “Be True to Your School.” ? Well, I did recently and it blew me away!

Yes, I vote we all should stay young and bold, at least in heart, and when death comes calling, let him be scared to come too close to the crazy exciting life we have made.
Mike Phelps

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