As you read this, I am prepared to endure one of the great "passages" of life. I will be attending not one but TWO high school class reunions. I went to a small school in eastern Washington for the first seven years of elementary school, then my family moved 20 miles east and I changed schools. Not only did I have to be the new kid in junior high, that school was the absolute rival of the school I had just left so I also had the humiliation of joining the enemy. However, kids being kids, I survived. Because we have family ties in the first town, and because I found great friends in the second town, I have been "blessed" with two groups of school buddies. And 20 miles isn't that far, as my parents kept telling me those first days after they announced we were moving.
I am not the only one with connections to both schools because of boundary changes, marriage (rivalry goes only so far), or whatever, so the classes collaborated and planned the reunions just a week apart, which saves us from wasting too much Alaska Time outside. To add to the angst this summer, we have to do what we swore we would never do again after the last time we did it: visit the Northwest in July. Apart from not wanting to leave Alaska in the summer comes the dread of a predicted record heat wave for the area while we're there.
Spring is a great time to visit northern Idaho/eastern Washington. Flowering trees are in bloom; birds, some of them on the way to Alaska, are chirping away; the vast wheat fields are just showing green; and there is no such thing as break-up. Even October is fine. The wheat has been harvested and the massive hills of the Palouse are golden with stubble; an occasional pumpkin patch still boasts big orange balls among the fading foliage, and deer come sneaking to the apple trees for a quick snack. Indian Summer is a reality as the days warm up from freezing nights and there's no snow in sight until Christmas.
But July is more than anyone needs to suffer. So, besides the anticipation of sweat-filled days, toss-and-turn nights because it doesn't cool off, and BUGS (I forgot about bugs! Our pet mosquitoes are nothing compared to the earwigs, grasshoppers, ants and yellow jackets all over the place.) I have the trepidation of seeing people I knew 50 years ago. Some of them I've continued to visit and correspond with, so they know the ups and downs of my life, and I, theirs. But not everyone stayed home (case in point) so I will also encounter those who only remember me as either the "teacher's pet" or "oh, yeah, you couldn't do a cartwheel." Which is OK because I remember them as "you forgot how to spell your name" or "the cheerleader who lost her skirt." No one remembers the GOOD points.
I didn't go on a diet, but I bought some new clothes, pulled out the jewelry I haven't worn since Adam was a pup (heard that one from my god father), had my hair done and made hubby, who is not from either school, promise NOT to mention clam digging or the chicken dance.
The first get-together, with my elementary school friends, is at a posh restaurant in the nearby "big" town. When we were last together as a class the land it's built on was still a wheat field and the town was only about half as big. It promises to be a "fun thing." I've seen one of my former classmates, who happens to also be my cousin, and she says the response was pretty good. From a class of 35 first-graders, they expect about half to show up. I'll get the prize for farthest traveled, as no place is further than Alaska from a wheat farm in eastern Washington.
Next weekend the high school buddies will meet for a picnic on Sunday at a farm pond across two fences and through a hay field. (Sound like old times?) Then on Monday, we'll gather again for a dinner cruise on one of the large lakes in the area. This group promises to be a little bigger and it will also be more free-wheeling, as loggers tend to get it on a little easier than farmers. But we are all many years older, and one would hope wiser. After all, we are retired!
So what we are missing in Alaska this week takes the backseat as I reminisce with old-time friends. Hubby has a million fishing stories and a tale or two about hip-boots and clams and there's always the granddaughters to talk about. We'll sweat it out!
Virginia Walters is a freelance writer who lives in Kenai.
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