Senior Stories

Sanity Trumps Vanity at 50th Class Reunion in Park Ridge

I have attended three of my high school class reunions.

At my 20th I was drunk and fit right in.

By my 30th I’d quit drinking. That proved to be a big mistake. Sober, straight, and wearing casual island garb – I’d just married Carolyn aboard a tall ship sailing into a Key West sunset – I stood out, a fashion faux pas among the Oxxford suits and peau de soie gowns worn by conservative Park Ridge, Illinois’ educated elite.

Perhaps my gold earring didn’t help. Apparently, many of my classmates suspected that I was “coming out.”

Big 50 High School Reunion

When I was awarded the statuette for “Most Recent Marriage,” murmurs and giggles filled the room. Just exactly what did Frank marry?

I attempted small talk. Classmates froze in place, their eyes darting side-to-site, fearful others might notice them in full cavort with this…this ear-ringed, ill-clad smudge of mold loose in an otherwise perfect loaf of white bread. Freak photos were taken.

Classmate Dutch Von Boeselager spent much of the night shooting pictures of me, mumbling over and over, “Unbelievable! Unbelievable!” I left early, as disappointed with the Class of ’53 as they were appalled by me. I swore I’d never go back.

Rewards of Age

By the time you’re 67, you learn to never say never. Last month I attended my 50th reunion. My lame excuse? That it would be grist for a funny Suddenly Senior column.

Funny, but instead of a goofy “Golden Girl” comedy, the reunion more closely resembled a slice-of-life Procter & Gamble soap commercial, all smiles and apple pie.

No longer did we put others on the judging block of financial success or dredge up to prehistoric foibles. Instead, I encountered 146 grandmas and grandpas, more interested in bragging about their grandchildren than impressing their classmates with grand symbols of status. Most of us didn’t even bother to suck in our bellies.

It was wonderful! For the Class of ’53, sanity had finally trumped vanity. Of course, I recognized no one.

Between aging and the blurring of memory, I could have been at a casting call for the movie “Cocoon.” And either some had aged more gracefully than others or there was a rare twenty-year span in our ages when we graduated. To a person, we secretly wondered what someone as young as our self was doing surrounded by all these old coots.

Suddenly Trivia: Which of the following was NOT popular in 1953? a) “The Doggie In the Window” by Patti Page, b) Philco TV Playhouse c) Pez, d) Ernest Borgnine in Marty

All of us, victims of time, gravity, and at least minor derelictions of youth, had become more forgiving, more congenial. More loving. Of the 463 in our graduating class, 58 were dead, 71 were “whereabouts unknown” and likely gone as well.

One had had a heart attack as she was leaving for the reunion. Others had literally dropped dead, one in the middle of Times Square.

Such food for thought filled us survivors with gratitude. What if we were a bit the worse for wear? We’d made it this far! No small accomplishment, that, even if much of it is the draw of the genes.

I wore my earring. No one said a word. No one stared. Old Dutch didn’t even reach for his camera. He just smiled.

The Class of ’53 had finally come of age.

Suddenly Trivia Answer: d) Ernest Borgnine won “Best Actor” award for his role in Marty in 1955. In 1953, First Class stamps were 3 cents, bread was 16 cents a loaf, and the average car cost $1,850. The DOW was at 281.


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