School reunions are like being in junior high

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During my tenure as a junior high principal, I can’t count the number of times I would meet with two sobbing girls and ask the question, “What’s the problem between the two of you?”

The answer, more often than not, would be a version of the following: “I used to be Lucy’s number one best friend, but now she told me that I’m her number two best friend and Sally is her new number one best friend. But I want to be her number one best friend.” To which Lucy would reply, “You would be my number one best friend but Clara said that Betty said that you told Amy that I was no longer your number one best friend.”

At this point, I would use an old acquired college skill from decades ago and draw a sociogram, a chart plotting the structure of interpersonal relations in a group situation, just to sort it all out.

On a personal level, I thought I had left my junior high brain in my junior high locker along with lengthy telephone conversations discussing friendships, who had a crush on whom, what to wear the next day and other general gossip.

I attend a small private school in which most of us had been together since first grade. Secrets were few. We all knew the good, bad and ugly about one another. We all attended similar churches, youth groups, roller skating parties and potlucks.

Many of us were related to one another, so if anyone wanted the latest gossip on anyone else they would call Aunt Bea, who contacted Barney. Barney then spoke to Thelma Lou with Thelma Lou calling Gomer. Gomer would then talk with Andy and Andy would put a halt to the polluted grapevine.

Traditionally, the first reunion is the 10th. I was unable to attend because I was living in the Midwest at that time. But when the invitation to the 20th year reunion arrived, I was living only an hour from where the event was being held.

At the very moment when I read the invitation, an unexpected thing happened. My junior high brain reappeared. Instantly, I started the plan on how to impress everyone else and prove that I was the most successful and happiest person in the class. It was at that moment that I was doomed for failure, but didn’t realize it.

My first consideration was our mode of transportation. I imagined arriving at the event would be similar to the Oscars or at least a movie premier minus the red carpet. I would arrive in a red Corvette and everyone would turn with envy as they all whispered about what I was wearing and how good I looked.

Then there was “The Dress.” It had to make a statement, but not a loud statement, after all I was the wife of a pastor. But I didn’t want to appear as the traditional pastor’s wife (plain cotton dress with rickrack, big clunky shoes and a borrowed handbag).

Shopping for the dress became a weekly ritual with Pastor Pete following me from store to store, checkbook in hand. I found several that were perfect and bought them all. I told myself that I would return the ones that I didn’t want. I shouldn’t lie to myself like that. It never works!

Modernizing my hairstyle was a huge concern. I finally settled on short hair with a tightly curled perm. One of the perms where you wash your hair, let it dry and walk out of the house. Pastor Pete called it my Bozo the Clown look.

When the day finally arrived, I found that I hadn’t lost enough weight so I practiced walking while holding in my stomach which then made the hem of the dress uneven. I found that leaning to one side to raise my right hip higher than the left hip solved the problem. I then noticed that one sleeve was a bit longer than the other, so I held my left shoulder higher than my right. My necklace now wouldn’t hang evenly, so I rather awkwardly held my head to one side. I didn’t realize how pathetic I looked until I overheard two classmates talking. One said, “Pat has changed, poor soul.” The other answered, “But doesn’t her dress fit well.”

We arrived fashionably late in our eight-year-old Ford Fairlane station wagon; not quite a Corvette, but it was bright red. Sadly, I discovered that everyone else was fashionably late and we were one of the first to arrive. As I watched my classmates walk into the room, I recognized most of them, except for the some of the men who had clearly outgrown the hair on the top of their heads.

Twenty years later found me at my 40th reunion but my methods had changed. Instead of trying to lose weight, I prayed that everyone would have gained weight. I took this as a moment to allow the Lord to work in all of our lives. After all, the Lord had increased my width greatly so He could do the same to others.

Two years ago, I attended my 50th reunion. The event was wonderful and we classmates are now closer than ever. We often communicate with one another and we ladies have mini reunion luncheons as often as possible.

Our junior high brains are a thing of the past and we just enjoy being together. Pastor Pete is somewhat envious of the longtime friendships of the Valley Christian High School class of 1964. I know he is because of the comment he makes every time I leave to have lunch with my classmates. “Have fun at your organ recital.” “My organ recital?”

“Face it! You always spend most of your time talking about your organs and other things connected to them; heart, kidneys, lungs and, most of all, your knees and hips.”

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Pat Van Dyke