My Thirtieth High School Reunion
Well, I was barely there in 1969 as I only completed half
of ninth grade but the Park High Class of '73 in Livingston,
Montana, still invites me anyway, even though my picture
is not even in any of the annuals (if I hadn't started kindergarten
early and skipped fourth grade, I would have been Class
of '75). They're curious to see how I turned out, I suspect.
When I got there they had forgotten to put on the list of
the deceased my best friend, Colleen "Buttons"
Greear, who died 21 years ago so I made sure she was on
the list priest prayed for. They had us all outside on the
golf course to take a group photo, fifty women and thirty
men all lined up to remember each other from 30 years ago.
The priest told us we could say something as he read the
list of names but nobody did until he read Buttons last
and I had to say, "Miss you, sweetie!" Then I
had a hard time smiling since I was crying so hard when
they took our picture.
After checking into the Murray Hotel I decided to go for
a bike ride down to the public pool. I was probably the
oldest person there and the water was icy cold but it was
very cool and refreshing after the long hot drive from Helena
to Livingston. I used to bike there from our place out on
the Five Acre Tract nearly every day in the summer. I pedaled
past the big barn of a house where our family first lived
-- remembered finding three crisp five dollar bills in a
copy of *The Great Gatsby* on the shelf of books around
the fireplace there when we moved in, oh, and the Five Foot
Shelf of Harvard Classics. I slowed and admired St Andrew's
Episcopal Church, where I went nearly every Sunday where
the drone of Father Faas lulled me to sleep on cold winter
Then off to the Country Club and it was like going to those
parties there with my parents except everyone looked vaguely
familiar but it took looking at their photos, Xeroxed with
their names typed under them and pinned to their chests
to see who they were. Next reunion we will all need MUCH
bigger print on those, somebody said. "I need it NOW,"
I said. It was like when you're floating down the river
trying to figure out which fish are which, I'm telling you,
because most of the faces I remembered were buried deep
under 30 years of living.
The Nelson twins were there and the Rowe twins, all cheerleaders,
of course, with handsome distinguished looking husbands.
Art Wiltgen was there, with his own electrical business
up in Wilsall, where he now installs high end security in
the big homes being built over in Bozeman. The girls who
were nice to me in high school, Karen West, Marty Clemons,
Marit Waldum, and Jonee, uh, can't remember HER name, all
grew up to be beautiful women and they were gracious to
me still. Dan Volberding was there who has written me on
email, looking huge, maybe 350 pounds, and I heard him tell
Jody Long, who still works for her mother at the Vogue --
which is where we bought our prom dresses -- and who still
cleans the Catholic cemetery where Buttons is buried, how
he had a crush on her in high school and that he still had
a crush on her. I didn't stick around long enough to find
out how that progressed...
The "coolest" -- and in those days that was the
expression -- kids in our class were Don Huppert and Rosalie
Hallam, both of whom now live in New York City. So both
of them mentioned in different conversations that they had
driven by the park together earlier in the day and how gross
it would be to go to the public pool (maybe they saw me
there?) and I told them how wonderful it was and thought
to myself they had really missed the coolest experience
of the day -- literally and figuratively -- and maybe I
had not missed out on anything in the last thirty years
after all because I have been blessed to be able to come
back to Montana to live, to canoe the Smith in a blizzard
and have my house within a mile of the ski area and be able
to float York's Islands this coming Sunday.
I left early to avoid the DJ, mostly because I couldn't
remember until later any of the songs from that year: though
Dawn and Tony Orlando's Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole
Oak Tree fits right in with the world 30 years later, and
Elton John's Crocodile Rock was already trying to evoke
a past we hadn't come from. Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On
was more in my spirit for those days, mostly because when
we cruised the one block drag in Livingston we loved to
listen to KOMA, OKLAHOMA CITY, FIFTY THOUSAND WATTS OF LIVE
POWER BRINGING YOU THAT MOTOWN SOUND.
We drove down to the cemetery and cleaned off Buttons'
grave at twilight and I put some flowers I had found in
an alley on her grave.
Then we went downtown to the street dance. Great cowboy
music in one bar with some folks who looked like Sons of
the Pioneers and a really loud headbanger band at another
bar. In the street was a country and western band playing
real loud. But at the Mint where I could always figure to
find my father at the poker table in the back, I discovered
they had remodeled and that there had actually been a door
directly from his accountant's office into the bar itself.
Three piece band there playing oldies was just right for
dancing and the band came up and told me how much my dancing
made them want to play more, which made me leave and go
back to the hotel to make love, then I changed into my bellydancing
outfit and went back but that resulted in clearing off the
dance floor. Luckily, none of my classmates were around
to see me have so much fun.