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Laurie Niles

'How in the world could it have been 20 years ago?'

August 9, 2006 at 6:35 AM

Well, our vacation did continue, though our car did not continue with us. We had to rent a car and leave our dead one with the mechanics in Williams, Arizona, who seem to be doing more for us than any of our mechanics in LA have.

Though we did not get to go to Mesa Verde (I wanted to see what Willa Cather was talking about; I'm so disappointed!) we did see the Grand Canyon on a late afternoon:


After that, we did a great deal of driving. We found ourselves asking the same question again and again, especially the kids: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? With much, much, MUCH too much practice, now even our six-year-old son can recite this question extremely rapidly without tripping over his tongue.

Yes, we drove for 12 hours to Denver, where we met up with 150 of my dearest friends from high school last weekend.


Actually, I mean that, because I have a really warm feeling for the Overland High School Class of 1986. In a class of about 450, fully a third of us showed up for our 20 year reunion! People came to Colorado from far and wide: one from Holland, a number from California, others from the east coast of the U.S.

I wanted to see everyone's face, do some remembering, reconnect. I did not sense a particularly competitive spirit, just more a sense that we were all in something together, and together we keep a bit of that spirit alive.

I ran into at least 10 people that had gone to kindergarten with me. Whether we were good friends in school or not, whether we've spoken even a word in 20 years, we have a great deal in common: our entire youth! Everything we did as a class, the teachers, the place where we lived, the way it changed, the way the "real world" turned out to be different then the little universe we inhabited together from 1973 through 1986... we had a lot to talk about.

Twenty years is a bit of time, and people did look different! "I either recognize the face, or the name tag, but getting both is a challenge!" a friend said. But more surprising then how different people looked was how familiar everyone still was.

A friend who was "never having children" was the most beautiful pregnant lady I've seen. Our class clown Clarke was at the microphone most of the evening, and despite the fact that now he's a dean of students at a major university, he hasn't changed:

"I noticed, us men are all getting bald and growing hair in strange places," he said, "But the women of the Class of '86? Ladies, you are SMOKIN' HOT!"

A couple who went to prom together were still married, still handsome, and had four children!

Clarke made us a slide show, and when showed a picture of tow-headed Dave, smiling with big braces, big glasses and his head just a little big for the rest of him, everyone cheered wildly. There he was, sitting at his table, a well-proportioned and good-looking man. Today we were seeing ourselves and each other as cute kids, in the throes of adolescence. There's a kind of healing and forgiveness in that.

I talked until I barely had any voice left, to people I knew well, to others who I knew better than I had remembered, and to some I'd scarcely ever spoken with.

When I came home, I flipped open the blue booklet made by the company who planned our reunion. They'd asked everyone to write a little bit about what they were doing and about what they remembered from high school. I read about everyone, and it made me laugh out loud, and it made me cry. Here are a few things I found next to people's names:

"I think I'd rather leave high school in the past – yikes!"

Memory: "Riding GH's motorcycle through the hallways and then getting busted!"

"I like to decorate cakes and do crafts to sell at craft shows.... I remember riding motorcycles and raising hell..."

"Recently I learned to knit and became passionate about it."

"Our family lives in Nepal, where we are involved in Christian ministry.."

"I'm busy with my business."

"I spent two years active and saw the West Coast and the Pacific Rim, along with the Middle East."

"I moved back to Colorado after finishing up my MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago."

"I spent five years in the Navy, visited 22 countries."

"I moved to the Netherlands."

"Choreograph for NBA and WNBA teams and teach dance."

Memory: "High centering my mom's car on a snow bank and my efforts to hide it from her – she knows the truth now!"

"I am still a die-hard Denver Broncos fan!"

"I spent two years living in Vail, Colo., skiing and waiting tables before law school."

"Climbed a 14er."

"Living the dream. I've been married for almost eight years to a fantastic woman. I have three incredible kids."

"I broke down and got hitched last year."

"We separated."

"Took a 17-day trip to Maui, Hawaii to celebrate my wife's fifth year of being cancer-free."

Memories: playing on the soccer team (cool) and in the band (nerdy) were both a blast."

Occupation: stay at home mom

"I'm drowning in testosterone with my household of four boys."

"Trying to be Martha Stewart when hosting kids' birthday parties"

"For the last eight years I have worked, raised my two children without help from their father and took care of my elderly parent."

"I love being a dad and spending time with the family."

"Expecting our first baby"

"I am single with no kids."


Memories: "Insta-nachos. Valour shirts. Album art. Laughing until soda squirts out your nose."

"I remember the day the Space Shuttle blew up."

"How in the world could it have been 20 years ago?"

"My favorite memory has to be the night that we loaded three trucks full of horse manure only to unload it in front of the entrance to the school... we managed to pull it off with the classic sign, which read, "For four years we have taken your s**t," now here's some of ours. Class of '86."

"I think we were all as close as a class of 500 could be."

From Karin Lin
Posted on August 9, 2006 at 6:59 AM
Thanks for sharing those experiences, Laurie! I remember being surprised when I went to my 10th high school reunion at how much some people had changed; the class jock was now a salesperson at a leading pharmeceutical company, the mousy girl whom I never paid much attention to was a gorgeous and well-spoken mother of two. I wonder what I'll find at the 20th!
From Richard Hellinger
Posted on August 9, 2006 at 7:07 AM
Sorry to hear about your car... but wow 450 people in your graduating class... RedJacket's (my high school) 2006 graduating class had 50 people in it!
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on August 9, 2006 at 7:47 AM
That sounds like a lot of fun, Laurie. I've had a great time at all of my high school reunions, too.
From Ray Randall
Posted on August 9, 2006 at 12:32 PM
Wow, what a story you have this time. Thanks for sharing it with us.
My high school had almost a thousand graduating. Our class polititian ran for U.S. Vice President last election and lost. At least hehad the Stamford High School vote.
From Terez Mertes
Posted on August 9, 2006 at 2:32 PM
FABULOUS Grand Canyon pic. Wow!
From Emily Grossman
Posted on August 10, 2006 at 7:35 AM
Now, that must've been a memorable day at the Grand Canyon! Beautiful.

Did you do the ten year reunion? How was it different? I didn't go to mine. I was too far away from Oklahoma, having too much fun.

From Claude Ramer
Posted on August 10, 2006 at 10:11 AM
Laurie, your comments on your 20th reunion call to mind a phenomenon that high school reunions reveal as almost no other life experience can--that time is a great equalizer and moderator. Physical and social class differences, at least as we perceived them in high school, become either less noticable, or perhaps of less importance to us in the total scheme of things, as the years go by. And the process is more or less a continuous one, at least through the 40th reunion. Classmates who were clearly dumb as hades in high school seemed strangely to have ideas and experiences of interest by the 10th reunion; by the 20th reunion, the person had clearly been doing things that seemed more interesting than what I had been doing; and by the 40th reunion, the childish differences of high school had in many instances been fully replaced by feelings of admiration and respect.

These changes are invigorating and enlightening. And, they serve as a reminder that life is short and that we all have something of value to contribute to those around us. The earlier we begin listening to voices other than our own, and respecting faces other than the one we see in the mirror, the sooner we are able to partake of all that life offers, the most valuable of which is friends.


From Scott 68
Posted on August 10, 2006 at 12:57 PM
im the same age as you lol

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