Last Friday I attended the Grafton Society luncheon for Mary Baldwin graduates who earned their degrees at least 50 years ago. Each year members of the class celebrating their 50th reunion are inducted into this special society, named in honor of the late Dean Martha Stackhouse Grafton and Dr. Thomas Grafton. This year the Class of ’62 became members at the luncheon held at Stonewall Jackson hotel in Staunton. This annual affair takes the place of class reunions.
Reunions are a means of stepping back in time periodically to recall the past – an opportunity to catch up with what has happened in the lives of those with whom we once shared a common experience. High school and college classes plan reunions at various intervals – 5, 10, 25, 50 – some more often, some less frequently.
Harry graduated from Jefferson high School in 1943. When I attended my Wilson Memorial High School reunions, he often commented that his class had never had a reunion. That is, until 1986, 43 years after graduation! Class of ’43, their 43rd year Reunion. He truly looked forward to the event.
Once during our vacation at the beach in 1986 we stopped to buy bait for fishing on the pier and Harry noticed a large poster promoting a Shrimp Festival later that summer. As he stood there perusing the information, the teenaged clerk approached him. “That’s really big around here,” he said. “You really oughta go !”
Harry replied, “Yes, I’d like to go. Unfortunately, it’s on the same day as my high school reunion, and this is the first one we’ve had in 43 years.” After a moment’s hesitation, the boy said, “Mister, you’d better go to the reunion. You might miss the next one!”
My high school class followed a plan similar to that of Mary Baldwin College, meeting annually for lunch somewhere in the Staunton area, once we passed the 50 year milestone. It’s always interesting to note the inevitable changes in everyone’s appearance. (We even made copies of our yearbook pictures to place on our name tags for quicker identification!)
Sharing news of children, grandchildren and now even great-grandchildren is a highlight of the occasion. It’s interesting to remember personalities of friends during their high school years and see how they have changed or stayed the same. In some cases, the shy quiet ones have become much more outgoing. Those who were full of fun and kept everyone laughing generally continue to do so, even in their old age. There is sadness, too, as we realize some are no longer with us or are in poor health and unable to attend.
Other groups who share a common experience also have reunions. Members of the armed forces, especially those who served during World War II, got together faithfully through the years. Now their numbers have dwindled to only a few.
On the other extreme, family reunions seem to grow. Our family reunion – actually the Henderson family (Harry’s mother’s family) meets every five years. The original family of nine brothers and sisters, who grew up on a farm in Augusta County, had multiplied to 125 when we met five years ago. Using miniature muffin pans, I made coconut and damson pies for everyone. The recipes from Harry’s great-grandmothers, dating back to the mid-1800’s.
We will meet again in July, in Staunton. Besides those still living in Virginia, family members will come from North Carolina, Georgia, California, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Tennessee, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland, London and Amsterdam.
It’s a small world!