One of the most wonderful benefits to being on Facebook is the ability to catch up with people on a daily basis...or at least as often as they post. When you move away from your hometown...you find that you only receive updates at five year increments during the phenomenon known as the High School Class Reunion.
I graduated in the R.E. Lee Institute Class of 1981 in Thomaston, Georgia. For those unfamiliar with the precise location of Thomaston...it is in west central Georgia approximately an hour and fifteen minutes southwest of Atlanta, 50 miles from Macon, and 45 minutes from Columbus. It is half an hour from Callaway Gardens and from Griffin. Just a place on a map that has its most familiar identity as an old mill town.
It is the town in which I was born in at the Upson County Hospital (now the Upson Regional Medical Center) in March 1963 because my mother was living in New York City at the time, and she wanted to come home to have her baby. She repeated this trek six years later with my sister. It was the town that she brought us back to permanently in 1972, and where I lived until my high school graduation in 1981.
My husband and I married in the First United Methodist Church across the street from the hospital in July 1985. I attended class reunions in 1991 and 2001. However, with my grandmother's death in 2004, my trips became far less frequent since I had not kept up with people who were living in town except for someone I might occasionally run into while making a Piggie Park or Big Chic run. Thinking back, I believe that I have only been to Thomaston on two occasions over the past three years.
I'm providing you this backstory to show that I have a love for and history with the town, but I did not do so well in the friendship upkeep department. I kept up with two friends through these years...both sporadically...and on the level of random communication on birthdays, holidays, or after reunions. My life was in Alabama, and Thomaston was a place representing my past...something I was both proud of and mortified by depending on the particular memory in question.
A month or so ago, one of my girlfriends from high school suggested that we get together to catch up. Talking on a more frequent basis was showing us sides of each other that seemed fun but comforting at the same time. As our children were flying the nest or the prospect of this began to loom closer for some of us...we realized that we wanted to pick up the threads of our past and return to find out how things had worked out for our friends and classmates. And so a date was chosen, and an invitation sent on our medium of communication...Facebook.
Last night, we had a small reunion...28 years after our graduation. Nine were in attendance. Another five were called away by last minute complications. Another four wanted to come but had illnesses to tend or scheduling conflicts.
What struck me most was that we have all aged well. Now, some of them may argue this...but think about those words...we have all aged well. It is one thing to retain the waifish figures we had in high school, but yet another to have matured into beautiful, strong, capable women. And we have. We have become wives, mothers, caregivers, employees, and volunteers. We have found success in some area of life...or in several.
The biggest surprise to me was that I actually like everyone even more than I did all of those years ago. What I saw were the sweet faces of the girls I knew shining from the beautiful women that I reacquainted myself with last night. Women that are survivors in every sense of the word.
Our class was especially high performing but also especially reckless as well. Some outgrew their recklessness...and others grew up to embrace it. We realized that we have lost at least four members of our class...Rhonda Hammock, Julie Johnson, Donna McCarty and Kay Callahan...and this is sad. Others in our class are known to be dealing with the accumulation of poor decisions. Others received their diplomas and never looked back...failing to attend reunions or to keep in touch with anyone. Going through the annuals reminded us of who we were missing, and whose stories we knew...who married who...and what they grew up to do. It was all very interesting to try to reconcile the kids we knew with the men and women they grew up to be.
The evening was one of laughter, wild golf cart rides, sushi (or California rolls for the less gastronomically adventurous), Japanese cuisine...and as to be expected...closing the place down. We took pictures, hugged, and reconnected in a way that is generally impossible at a reunion because of the sheer number of people attending. We usually also have our husbands or dates to entertain then as well. Not last night!
I hope that the others feel the way that I did. One remarked to the waitress that she had known her friend for 40 years. Forty years! Is it possible? Apparently it is. This same friend cracked us up with her humor and honesty, and impressed me with her devotion to her children and her incredible wisdom. Other friends were working through life as single women and mothers and feeling the joy of independence at purchasing a home or of watching a child do the same. Others had an empty nest, but a heart full of love for others. Another was on the other end of the spectrum having married and started motherhood a little later on. She made me smile recanting stories from the past and her frustrations and joys in the present. Our hostess for the evening opened her beautiful home and managed the details so that all we had to do was show up and enjoy our time together. Another friend drove so that those of us who suffer from extreme directional impairment were able to actually find the destination.
As a collective group, we represent a cross-section of the Class of 1981. We were friends...or we were classmates. It did not matter last night. What mattered is that we came...and that we were in the place in our lives where it was not only possible...but it was nothing short of awesome.
I hope that there will be other mini-reunions like this so that we can get together more often and spend more time together. I like these women. I know their stories and what WAS is far less important as what IS. And what IS...is wonderful. We have the common bond of having the privilege of being raised in Thomaston, Georgia. We understand the same points of reference. We crave the same Piggie Park and Big Chic (and now...Peachtree Cafe). We have survived and thrived in the intervening years. We even have the benefit of merging the girls then with the women of today...and find that we still see the same girls we went to school with in spite of the new (or renewed) hair colors (except for one...lucky girl that she is) when we look at each other.
I told one of them last night how good she looked and she said..."No, I don't either!" But you know...just seeing her (and the others) was like seeing the girl she was and the woman she is as one and the same. And you know...that's a wonderful thing. Not everyone has that ability, you know! Just those of us who were blessed to have had that time together all of those years ago. Here's hoping that we have many, many wonderful times together ahead. Later!