My senior year got a little better. The girl I had taken to the junior prom organized a small “social club” and invited me to join as part of a group of about six regular members, which became the extent of my senior year social life. Then I hurt myself running at the end of the Cross Country season. Although I earned my second Cross Country varsity letter, I sat out the Track and Field season which ended my athletics involvement. I lost interest in the Boy Scouts and gradually stopped attending events.
Although I was making decent money (for that time) I recognized that working at a summer camp offered a limited future, and there weren’t a lot of other career opportunities in the area. By now my grades were uniformly “barely passing,” and going on to college wasn’t even discussed. I felt isolated from the community around me and saw no future there.
Several months before the end of my senior year I enlisted in the US Navy, and five days after high school graduation I left Pine Bush for basic training. I never looked back. The years since graduation have been a nomadic life of periodic moves and frequent job changes. I most recently moved to northern Virginia, which is the closest I’ve lived to New York since I left.
I kept in touch with the people in my high school social club for a few years, but gradually lost contact with all but one couple who moved to Wyoming. I was vaguely aware of previous class reunions, with the big events being the tenth, twentieth, and thirtieth reunions, but I never tried to attend. I could make excuses about living a long ways away and being busy with work, but the truth is I wasn’t interested in attending reunions. I didn’t feel like I left anything in Pine Bush to go back for.
Somehow, through the magic of Facebook, the lady organizing the fortieth reunion located me about eighteen months ago and I linked into my graduating class Facebook page. I started reading the posts, and gradually decided it was time for me to go back and meet up with old classmates. About four months before the event I made reservations to attend. Winnie wasn’t interested in going with me on reason that she wouldn’t know anyone there.
The reunion was a well-organized two-evening event that combined the graduating classes of 1973 and 1974. It was being held in the newer part of Middletown, the closest big city to Pine Bush. Friday night September 12 was planned as an informal “meet and greet” in the party room of a club next to the hotels us out-of-towners were staying at. Saturday night September 13 was a formal dinner with live band at the nicest country club in the area. Out of the combined 400 people in the two graduating classes, there were about 60 people who made reservations for each night’s events.
I was on the road by early Friday morning September 12, made the seven-hour drive to Middletown, and checked into my hotel. That evening I walked over to the meet and greet. As is my norm, I arrived at the event a few minutes early and was one of the first people in the room.
I was actually quite nervous knowing I was going to be around people I hadn’t seen or spoken to in forty years. I didn’t know what to expect and didn’t know if anyone would even remember me. I don’t mingle well in large groups anyway and I was prepared to leave early if the party got too lonely.