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Don't pass on reunions

In recent weeks, local schools held graduation ceremonies to honor this rite of passage into adulthood. These are momentous occasions, but most of us carry few memories of the speeches or the ritual after a few years have passed. What we do carry with us are the knowledge and lifelong emotional connections to our classmates. The grad parties and celebrations will continue for a while, but then it is time to move on.

As the Class of ’24 continues to find its way in the world, they hold memories of teachers, events, and friendships as well as the trials and successes they faced together. Especially memorable for this group is the pandemic.

“Being part of the same high school graduating class is a huge bond,” says behavioral scientist Glenn Geher, Ph.D., in a 2018 Psychology Today article.

Geher notes that shared experiences that produce strong emotional reactions, such as a natural disaster or winning a state championship, can create a link. At other times the major factor can be events faced together over a long period of time, such as activities during our school years.

Some classmates will hold onto their school friendships for life, but many find that their lives diverge down different paths, and they lose touch.

For decades the class reunion was the opportunity to check in and catch up on the others. However, nowadays social media provides news of and continued connections to many classmates. Consequently, people are questioning the value of holding class reunions.

“Reunions can seem kind of pointless now that social media enables us to peer in on the lives of old acquaintances,” reports Truth in American Education, “but as you know, social media is not real life.”

The report examines the reasons in-person reunions are important. The main factor is nostalgia. “It’s a chance to relive those carefree days, even if just for a fleeting moment.”

This report echoes the bonding experiences that Geher noted.

“High school is a unique period in our lives, filled with shared experiences that shape our identities and forge lasting bonds. From the excitement of pep rallies and school dances to the camaraderie of sports teams and extracurricular activities, these moments create a sense of unity that transcends time.”

Lindsey Ellefson writes on Lifehacker that connecting in person is just better. She says, “You can reminisce, make amends, and have meaningful conversations much easier than you can on Facebook or Instagram.”

For those who attend reunions and those who plan them, the true value lies in the reconnection to the community that helped shape our lives. Reunions are not about our careers, social status or successes and failures. The real treasure of a reunion is joining with others who share the memories of our youth, to dance to “our music” and recall classes and teachers and laugh often. The reunion is an opportunity to celebrate with those who share an important part of our history.

The Truth in American Education report ends with these poignant words:

“One thing is certain: the bonds formed during our formative years hold a special place in our hearts, and the desire to reconnect with those who shared that journey will likely endure for generations to come.”

Francy Chammings is a retired English teacher and clinical psychologist who lives in Carlton County.