I can still remember that crisp, fall day back in 1972, when I walked into Mrs. Bell’s first grade classroom in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. Mrs. Bell first uttered the words that, in time, would be all too familiar: “We have a new student joining us today.” Twenty-four heads turned as I made my way across the room and nervously took my seat. It was my first experience with changing schools.
Mrs. Bell picked up where she had left off, with a math or spelling or reading exercise, but no one was paying much attention. There was a new kid in school. Who could resist watching her and wondering… where did she come from? Did she have brothers and sisters? What did she like to do? Where did she live? What was she like?
Mostly, she was shy.
In the first grade, though, shyness is only a temporary discomfort, relieved fairly quickly by the recess bell. Moments later, freed from the confines of the classroom, a group of chattering girls surrounded me on the playground. By the end of the day, I had lots of new friends – until our next move, at least. If only it had always been so easy. Instead, as the years passed, it was increasingly hard to fit in at a new school.
Ten long years after Wolfeboro, on a crisp, fall day in 1982, I first walked down the locker-lined halls of McGregor High School. I was no less shy, despite having gone through this routine a few times by then. It was even harder to talk to new people, and with age my peers had become less and less readily accepting. I carried an overwhelming fear that I’d say something stupid and immediately be labeled a loser, so it was better to play it safe and say nothing at all. I just wanted to get through those first days and weeks and fade into the background as quickly as possible – easier said than done in a small town. In hindsight, I probably seemed like a really big snob. Actually, I was terrified.
But despite the initial ups and downs, some poor choices, and an increasingly bad attitude, I finally did have friends in McGregor. One in particular, a McGregor school "lifer" from kindergarten through graduation day, would eventually become my husband. His school experiences were vastly different from my own, and I envied the stability he had taken for granted. He knew, literally, everyone in the class and seemed to be good friends with most of them. They had experiences together that stretched beyond memory. Consequently, he never misses a chance to get together, and he looks forward to a class reunion with anticipation.
I, on the other hand, might well just skip it if not for the whole marriage deal...but maybe that’s changed.
We recently attended our 25-year class reunion, and as I heard my husband and classmates recounting stories I had heard many times before, something hit me. It almost seems like I was there, too. In some cases, I actually was. I always envied those long-time school friendships and memories I felt I would never have, but somehow it turns out that I do. Some formed in school, many more in the years that have followed. At any rate, I finally feel like a part of the class.
I’ve been a member of several “classes of ’84,” but unfortunately have only kept in touch with a handful of those friends. Even in this Facebook age, I have yet to find any of the Wolfeboro classmates with whom I spent four years of my young life. With only two short years at MHS, I never expected to stay in touch with my classmates there either. But after all this time – with teenage angst, self-consciousness, and many years behind us (plus a husband who wouldn't dream of missing a reunion) – I can finally appreciate the individuals who make up this class and think of them all as friends. With each reunion, I feel a closer connection to this class of ’84. After all, its no longer just two years, but 27, since that fall day in '82. Over half my life with the same class…
Note: Because I'm sure some are wondering, "Is that your whole class?" No, our class was small, but not quite that small. I think almost half showed up for our 25th at some point. There was some debate about how many were actually in our class. I counted 66 in the yearbook, though I could've sworn there were more...
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