Let’s Hear It for Class Reunions

This past Sunday marked seventeen years since the passing of our mother Evelyn Allegra Anderson Busk. In the flurry of group-grope family emails that were exchanged that day, the general opinion was, that although she might be gone, her voice and words of wisdom remain, playing in endless loops in each of our heads.

In fact, I was hearing one of those last week as I was preparing to write last week’s blog. I had just finished “getting my ten” for the day and knew that, by the time Friday rolled around—the day the blog would post—that the step count would be at 18,000,000. I was going to write about that, but then I heard my mother’s voice as clear as a bell: “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”

So I didn’t. I’m giving my step report this week instead when I currently have a 68,000-step down payment on the next million. So yes, I’m still walking. And someone who changed email addresses without telling me, was astonished to learn that I’m still writing, too. She had missed the last four books. Not my fault.

But something else happened this last Sunday, as well. I graduated from high school in 1962, and Sunday was when I attended a sixtieth class reunion. You’ll notice I said “a” sixtieth class reunion rather than “my” sixtieth class reunion. An explanation for that will follow but, it’s complicated. (As Bill says, “With you, there are no short stories, only long ones.” So here goes.

I grew up in a family of nine. That’s a lot of birthdays to remember to begin with. Then, when you add in kids, kids’ spouses, grand kids, and great grand kids, that’s a whole lot more birthdays and ages to remember, but for me it’s even more challenging. I write four different series of books. So I have to remember all my characters’ relative ages as well—how old they were when I first started writing about them and how old they are now?

So with Beaumont I cheated. I gave him my birthday so I would be able to remember it, and for a long time that strategy worked. Then, a couple of weeks ago, while watching America’s Funniest Videos, there was a young man, a dancer, flinging his body from one side of the stage to the other. So I said to Bill, “From the point of view of my 76 year-old body, that looks impossible.”

Bill, by the way, is a retired electronics engineer. He also functions as our familial fact-checker. “Are you sure you’re seventy-six?” he asked. Arithmetic has never been my strong suit, so I used the calculator app on my computer. Sure enough. Next month I’ll be turning seventy-eight. Obviously during Covid, I cancelled all non-celebrated birthdays and spent two years happily marching in place at age seventy-six.

Meanwhile time was marching on for everyone else, including J.P. Beaumont. Bisbee High School acknowledged the class of 1962 during an alumni gathering this summer, but I was unable to attend. However, do you remember that J.P. and I are the same age? That means he also graduated from high school in 1962. In his case, because he grew up in Ballard, his alma mater is Ballard High School. And this year, I was invited to be guest of honor at the joint Ballard High reunions for the classes of 1961 and 1962.

There were 128 kids in my graduating glass. As my mother would have said, “Ballard High was a white horse of a different color.” Their class of ’61 had more than 600 kids and ’62 had more than 500. So the reunion gathering was far larger than I expected. No I didn’t end up spending the day with people from Bisbee, but I did get to celebrate it with people my age, many of whom turned out to be devoted fans of mine.

The Ballard High School colors are red and black as opposed to Bisbee’s red and gray, but I managed to show up properly attired in red and black. They’re the Beavers as opposed to Bisbee’s Pumas. I’m the only one there who didn’t know the words to their fight song, and none of them knew the words to “Onward Bisbee,” either, but they made me feel entirely at home.

Once Beaver alumni pass their 50th reunion, they become “Golden Beavers.” I was in a whole roomful of those on Sunday, but the first one I ever met was a lady named Ellen Olsen who sent me a cranky snail mail letter back in the late eighties or early nineties, bawling me out for referring to a sixty-something woman as a “little old lady.” Her complaint makes a lot more sense to me now than it did back then.

Over the years, I met a number of Ballard High Alums, and participated in their fundraising auctions on more than one occasion. A couple named John and Linda Ellingboe have been Ballard High’s ambassadors to me over the years, but I just found out that neither of them graduated in 1961 or 1962.

In other words, I may have celebrated on Sunday with a roomful of relative strangers, but both J.P. Beaumont and I are glad we went.