The Big Five-O

October 3, 2019

No, I’m not writing about my 50th birthday.  That happened a long time ago.

I’m writing about the 50th reunion of the Class of 1969 from Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia.  It’s taking place this Saturday night in (where else?) Arlington.

I won’t be there, obviously, as W. and I are currently in Bordeaux, drinking fine wines and walking for miles around this very strange old city.  But I have been thinking about the event and about everything that has happened over the last 50 years.

Classmates have set up a website with “where are they now” profiles and the results are most informative.  For one thing, there seems to be a divergence between the Class of 1968 (it is a joint reunion) and the Class of 1969.  The ’68 class comes across as a bit more straight and narrow — more lawyers and doctors, more PhDs, more still-extant marriages to high school sweethearts.  The ’69 class took its time in finding its way in the world, with more than a few diversions (Peace Corps, Alaska, etc.)

In both classes there are lots of now-retired career military and career civil servants, perhaps not surprising given that Arlington houses the Pentagon and sits across the Potomac from Washington.

A couple of other observations:

  1. There is a mortality rate of about 10 percent for my class.  I don’t know if this is the norm for 68-year-old people (I’m two years younger than most of my classmates).  Death does not seem to care how popular you were in high school.
  2. Most people have lived decent, productive lives. Families, careers, travel, religion, hobbies, etc — people have found good ways to use their time and their talents.
  3. There are not too many big surprises.  The people who worked hard in high school seem to have worked hard in life.  They graduated from good colleges, got graduate degrees and pursued interesting careers.  Likewise, the slackers and goof-offs slacked and goofed off for a while.  But over time, everything seems to have balanced out.

If I weren’t in France, would I have gone to the reunion?  Probably not.   I am only in touch with one person from the class, who is a good friend to this day.  Every year or so, a half-dozen classmates who live in Richmond get together for a drink, which is enjoyable enough.  Plus, the class was so big (almost 700 people, I think) that there are many people I never knew.  Plus, I was a prize jerk in high school (compensating for my immaturity?) and many of my memories make me cringe rather than smile.

But it is good to look at a cross-section of normal, middle-class people and see that for the most part they have done well.  My class ventured out into turbulent times — drugs, demonstrations, the tail end of Vietnam, and the hippie era.  Being 18 in 1970 had its own set of challenges.  I’m glad that the people I knew in high school got through it relatively unscathed.

Back to France.  Today’s agenda:  Work in the morning, then see the Cathedral of St. Andre, take a boat ride on the Garonne, shop at a big bookstore and have an early dinner at a cafe.  Things could be worse.

Below, La Roque Gageac in the Dordogne, taken earlier this week.  The Dordogne was spectacular and I will write more about it in my next post.


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