Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Last year (2009) was my 20th high school reunion. I enjoyed it, and I kinda played a role in planning it. OK, no, I was more like the ring leader in planning it. I say that with some degree of surprise because for a lot of years I always said, “Everyone I care to see from high school I already see on a regular basis.” Over the last 20 years, my closest friends have been my three girlfriends from high school. We all went different directions in life, and we all have different passions, but we always still managed to find time to get together because whatever drew us together more than 20 years ago has managed to keep us coming back.

The girls including me (bottom left) 1989

Same girls 2005

I’ve been thinking a lot about reunions lately – and high school. When I was in the process of planning the reunion, I kept repeatedly putting out a call for old pictures. Only one person came through and only with a handful of photos. In the meantime I have about 6 photo albums filled with pictures I took through high school and in the years immediately after. I kept saying that I was going to upload them, I just didn’t have the motivation or energy to do it. I had my computer stolen in February and by the time I got a new one in the summer, I still hadn’t downloaded the printer driver to my printer-scanner.

That is, until this weekend. In the process of moving, those old photo albums came under my feet again, literally, and it was time to do it. My scanner is slow but I spent a good chunk of Sunday and Monday night periodically scanning a select few of these old photos and uploading them to that time-sucking bastion of social networking, Facebook.

The response amazed me. And four or five of the 10 or so individuals I tagged in those photos carried on an everlasting discussion about our high school lives. One photo has greater than 40 comments under it. Some of those comments are completely unrelated to the photo itself. Some of them are highly juvenile and inappropriate (I will admit to being the ring leader of that too – well, I can really only take partial credit, it is not hard to drag me down that road). But it was interesting to watch these four or five personalities, some of whom I haven’t had much contact with in the last 20 years, revert back to their 17 and 18 year old selves.
Yogi and Scoobie at Canada's Wonderland

People’s memories are funny. A couple of us couldn’t remember the story of Yogi and Scoobie being toted around on our high school band trip to Toronto. But one person did and that hole got filled. There were memories of flirting with Newfie girls, comments about fashion from 1989, thank-you’s for the laughs and the memories. I might remember something one way (e.g. the story of how my 18th surprise birthday party came about) while someone else remembers an entirely different angle.

Last night I typed a status related to this venture that said: “Kim is enjoying taking everyone on a walk (or run) down memory lane.” As an addendum to that status, I added (in part):

It is funny how I am watching these pictures turn everyone in them back into a high school kid if even for a few minutes. It is so easy to go back to that time in my head. I guess I enjoyed it and had a positive experience. I know not everyone did (and I certainly had my moments too). In my memories all these people still look exactly as they do in those photos. . . . . . If it wasn’t for facebook, I never would have had any contact with some of you again. Maybe I would have seen you around the city and maybe I wouldn’t even have recognized you while I was lost in my own world doing my day to day life. And I am thankful for fb (as time sucking as it can be) because it has been a positive reuniting.

And what resulted from this status was another discussion about how we were friends for life because we went to the same high school, phone numbers were dropped, party plans are being made. I noted that I had been watching my news thread and had seen several people I had tagged in these photos, friending each other. I asked one of the guys, in that same thread, why he didn’t go to our grad. He was a year behind us so he would have had to have been asked by a girl from our class. And what came was a confession and an apology to the person that did ask him and he had turned down.

That apology cued me into another memory of when, on that same Toronto band trip I mentioned earlier, I had needed to apologize to him for comments made behind his back under duress and teenage lack of judgement, which he had overheard. That situation is what comes to my mind every time I see his name pop up on my news feed. I wrote him a private message and told him the story. He had no real clear recollection of the event, yet for me, it is on my list of most horrifying things I did and wish I could take back. But I don’t even know if how I remember that scene is actually how it really happened or if it is just how my memory wanted it to have happened, magnified to epic proportions over time.
Part of the gang -- Toronto band trip 1989

You hear those stories, of people who have been bullied during high school and they muster up the courage and go to their high school reunions, terrified it will be the same, but they find that everyone has grown up and matured. So they walk away with renewed energy, perhaps glad to let go of the burden they’ve been carrying of that fear that deep inside they are still that gangly, ugly perhaps, mouthy, shy, social awkward – insert whatever adjective comes to mind – teenager they once were. And maybe we all go through that a little.

There are a few people on my facebook friend’s list that I was not really close to in high school. There are a few there that I probably never really talked to in high school at ALL, for whatever reason, social status maybe, fear of them because they dared to stray from conformity and be their true selves. I don’t know. Facebook has allowed me to watch their lives unfold as adults. I probably would not even have added these people as friends if it hadn’t been for that 20 year milestone. Why wouldn’t I have added them? Simple. I figured they wouldn’t be interested in me because I never talked to them. (Everyone has their own rules for what facebook is to be used for – but that is a whole other blog for me to write). But these are beautiful adults – smart, successful, talented, deep-thinking adults -- wish I had been able to see that when I was a teenager while I was self-centredly thinking about myself and worrying about being invited to the next party. (Most of my high school photos, by the way, are party pictures).
Me at my 18th Birthday Party April 1989

One of my facebook friends, and now real life friends who was not in my social circle messaged me in the midst of these photos appearing, stating how jealous he was that I had a good experience in high school. The photos proved it, he said. I guess I did. I’ve kept these photos for 20 years and they are not in a box or random envelopes but in contained photo albums with protective pages. I have about 40 scribblers of journaling from that time period (and several years following -- and that, by the way, explains my good memory for events -- sometimes I look things up) full of teenage obsessiveness and ranting and heartbreak. There was lots of heartbreak – so it wasn’t all good. And I’ve written two novels about teens, some of which were loosely, with A LOT of license to alter events so they turned out as I pleased, based on what my life was like as a teen. One is about the summer right after graduation and the other is about that infamous band trip to Toronto, because stuff happened on that band trip that probably bonded us all for life, at least a little bit and in different ways.

And as the last week proves, we’ve all held on to different memories and let others go.

WPC Class of 1989 High School Reunion, July 2009


christine said...

Well put Kim. Even though I may not remember as much as you do, I definitely remember how we were all friends, in one way or another, no matter what circle we ran with. Conversing over the past few days on FB with everyone has brought back a lot of memories I haven't thought about for a very long time (mostly because I didn't remember until I read the stories). I look forward to seeing more pictures and doing more reminiscing. And I look forward to the party we are trying to plan - it will be a blast. I just hope it happens.

Maura said...

Wonderfully put Kim. I am truly sorry I couldn't be there for our 20th but the residual affects are far greater than a single night. Thanks for the walk and the giggles. I look forward to sharing a beer with you sometime soon!!