The fall always makes me nostalgic… but even more so this year. You see I travelled home to the east coast this September for my 40th high school reunion. For a whole weekend of nothing but nostalgia.
Things have changed a lot in 40 years, as you might expect. This is a shot looking out over the Saint John River and the islands from the top of the hill on our farm. It was taken in the 1970’s…
…back when I was still in high school and looked like this….all big eyes, thick unruly hair and skinny legs.

Thanks to forty years and flattening irons, I have changed considerably…. although I still have skinny legs.They run in the family.

I was pretty shy in high school; not with friends, but in class or with new people I was often tongue-tied. That certainly has changed. I remember a few years ago counselling one of my students who was painfully shy and dreaded doing oral presentations; I told him that I had been the same in school. And he looked at me surprised and said…”What happened to you?”

So… although I’m not shy anymore, I will admit I was a little nervous about attending the reunion… nervous and excited. For one thing, I’d stressed (privately and publicly on this blog) about what to wear.

On the Friday night I met up with my old friend, Colleen, and her partner and we went together to the “Meet and Greet” at a local hotel. I was glad not to be going alone…in case I didn’t see anyone I knew. Or who knew me.

Funny… thinking that. Once we arrived, I do believe I didn’t shut up all night. Or for most of the next two days. Shrieks, hugs, tears, lots of laughs. I was so busy talking that I took only two photos… one of which is blurry… and although there were lovely appetizers and snacks served I didn’t eat a thing, having been taught, of course, that one doesn’t talk with one’s mouth full. I finally left around 11 o’clock, only because I was so hoarse I couldn’t speak anymore.

For the “Meet and Greet,” I wore my J-Brand skinny jeans, my new black gingham shirt from Gap, and my red Banjo and Matilda sweater. Oh…and my new Stuart Weitzman loafers.

That’s me below taking a selfie with Sheree who was in my grade eleven French class. Sheree’s a very successful writer now. And she was our class valedictorian in ’74.

On Saturday afternoon, I met Colleen and her beau (below) at our old high school for the buffet lunch and tour of the school. Colleen and I have been best buds since grade two. Over the course of our long friendship we have drifted apart, sometimes for years, but have always come back together as if we had spoken just the day before. Whether step dancing and wearing matching outfits in grade school, swapping tales of broken hearts, or stressing over major life and career changes…. we have always supported each other. She’s my “little” sister.  Cute isn’t she?

That’s my friend Alice below. She and I met in grade nine when my mum married my stepfather and we moved to the farm. We survived three years of  English classes together in high school. I remember her with long, straight hair. But I really like the bob, Alice… and the red lip.

On Saturday afternoon, I wore my camel sweater with lace applique from J Crew; we have a store in Ottawa, now. And my new Yoga jeans made by Second Clothing Company in Montreal. They’re called Yoga jeans because they’re so comfortable. These are black “overdyed” with brown which gives them that lovely, faded, kind of  distressed, look. And they’re high rise. The search for high rise jeans I like is finally over. Yah!

On Saturday evening we all danced (and talked) up a storm in the hall at the Boyce Farmer’s Market in downtown Fredericton. This was pure 70’s style. And a ton of fun. I loved that it was casual and comfortable. Hard to dance to those old songs all dressed up. I was excited when they played The Hollies’ “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress”… my absolute favourite song from my high school days. It reminded me of the dances we went to in Nackawic. Yep… when we drove the 40+ km. there in the back of someone’s truck. Whaaat…were we crazy?! No.. just sixteen and invincible.

For the dance on Saturday night, I wore my black leather pants (my investment piece from fall 2013) and a cobalt blue top that I bought at Zara last Christmas. The top has leather trim at the neck and on the cuffs. It was a steal. I love the cut and the longer shirt tail in the back.

So I stressed about what to wear needlessly. All that wondering about which dress to wear for the Saturday night event…whether to wear my black Lida Baday or to buy something new. All for nothing. When the reunion newsletter came saying that Saturday night was to be “comfortable” dress….my problems were solved.

With no flash on my i-pad this is the best shot I have of Saturday night. The dance floor… before the crowd.

It’s hard in retrospect to capture the buoyant feeling that suffused the hall that night. Old acquaintances and classmates that I hadn’t seen in many, many years became friends again. People who seemed, at first glance, like strangers, emerged from the camouflage of changed hairstyles and laugh lines as the same old friends I knew way back when. I talked to people I first met in primary school, or in grade six when several classes of kids from our overcrowded school were bused to a school in another part of the city. I laughed with women who reminisced about my birthday pyjama parties in junior high. And to classmates who remembered that I didn’t attend my high school graduation because I had been in a car accident the week before. And everywhere I turned I heard: “Susan Burpee… you haven’t changed one bit.”
How I wish that were true. Or do I?  Maybe not. I’m quite comfortable being 58 and not 18.
Like the old house at home on the farm… after 40 years my classmates and I are a little more blurred at the edges, maybe in need of a fresh coat of paint (by midnight on Saturday night I definitely needed a new coat of “paint”), sagging in a few new places… but still essentially ourselves.
Quite comfortable in our camouflage.

At midnight on Saturday night, exhausted, ready to go home, I circled through the hall saying good-bye to everyone I had said hello to only the day before. Old friends made new again. I climbed into my brother’s company car (“Burpee Drilling” painted on its side) fiddled in the dark to turn on the lights…. and smiled all the way home to my mum’s.

Have you ever been to a school reunion?


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9 thoughts on “Reunion 2014 …. Hellos, Good-byes, and What I Wore”

  1. i went to an all-girls catholic high school in new orleans (class of '67). i disliked the school but loved the girls. every 5 years we have a mini-reunion and i look forward to them very much. at first we had an evening event, a cocktail party or whatever with spouses and dates. somewhere along the line we decided that since there were no boys at school, there was no reason to have them at the reunions, either. big relief to most of the spouses, including my own, as well as to the unmarried, divorced or widowed. these days we have a daytime event with a buffet lunch so that we can have good circulation and mix with everyone. maybe i see the girls thru rose-colored glasses but i think we all look great. my only regret is that one of the circles i mixed with back then, smart rebellious girls who were ill-suited to a catholic high school, do not attend the reunions and seem to have dropped off the radar entirely. otherwise, bliss.

    loved hearing about your great weekend with your chums and thanx for the pictures.

    1. We will have to have another reunion soon, as well, I think. Like my good friend said to me last year…."Let's not leave it for another decade. After all how many decades do we have left?"

  2. Never been, and not motivated ever to go, quite honestly, although perhaps I'd be curious at this point, should someone get organized. It's all so long ago it seems irrelevant, quite honestly.
    But Sheree Fitch, she'd be worth going back to see. That's who's peeking out from behind you in that photo, right? I met her, heard her read her poetry way back, perhaps 15, probably more like 20 years ago. One of my daughters has a copy of Toes in My Nose on her daughter's bookshelf that Sheree probably signed at the Vancouver Island Children's Book Festival. I've got a copy of her wonderful In This House Are Many Women. Love her writing, both adult's and children's.
    And I love those leather pants. About 5 or 6 years ago I finally gave up a pair whose cut was outdated and keep thinking of filling that gap in my wardrobe. Not sure how they would work in my current lifestyle, but you demonstrate their value so well!

    1. Well spotted, Mater. I hadn't seen Sheree since high school, except for hearing her on CBC radio with Peter Gzowski or Shelagh Rogers. She's a lovely person, and she still has all that beautiful, curly hair that I remembered so well.

  3. You looked great and I love that cute picture of you and your best friend. I went to the ten year, but haven't made any since then…although, I think I look better now than I did in high school. It is always fun to re-connect with old friends. Thanks for sharing with the Thursday Blog Hop!

    1. Thanks Pam. The line of the night was "are you on Facebook?" …so great That now reacquainted with old friends I can easily keep in touch.

  4. You look fantastic everywhere. No wonder people say you haven't changed – they mean you look so youthful! And yes, I did go to a high school reunion, my 20th. It was more sad than anything else, so many people damaged by the drugs of the late 70s, and by AIDs, and who knows what. Yours sounds ideal.

    1. Ah, thanks Lisa. That's very kind of you to say so. I guess we were lucky that the drug scene didn't hit our small east coast city until after we had graduated. Although I did go to university with people that sadly became very scrambled as a result of acid etc etc. Makes our forays to country dances and bush parties with Moosehead beer (a Maritime fav) seem almost innocent. I guess we are lucky to have survived being teenagers in the 70's.

  5. From the looks of your school photo, you've always been a " turtleneck kinda gal " 🙂

    As for high school reunions… I didn't enjoy my time there in the least, so nope… no reunions for me.

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