Childhood,  Friends,  Humor

I Went to My High School Reunion and Lived to Tell

A few weeks ago I wrote about attending my high school reunion and things I wasn’t going to do before attending the said reunion.

I got a surprisingly positive response from that post and lots of requests for a follow-up post,

Mostly because you really wanted to know if I told everyone that I trained hamsters in my basement.

Sorry to disappoint you.

I did, however, tell someone I invented post-its, to which they responded ROMY AND MICHELE!! then I open mouth kissed them no I didn’t,

via GIPHY

So change of plans week of the reunion, I decided to bring my mommy with me on the reunion trip!

My mom hadn’t been back “home” in some time and we decided to right that wrong and make it a girls trip.

My mom, me and my Nikes headed on the open road!

If you’ve never been on a girls trip with your mom as an adult, do it for yourselves. Unless you’re a guy, then totally do a dad-son mans trip. It was the best weekend I have had in a long time.

We talked the entire seven-hour trip to Ohio and the entire seven-hour trip back from Ohio with the only silence when I took a little nap on the way home because I am too old to attend high school reunions, apparently.

Once in Ohio, we drove around old neighborhoods; visited my mom’s childhood farm; she told me stories I had heard and several I had never heard; I got to see the funeral home (now just a home) where my granddad’s funeral was held (something I had never seen even when I lived there); but most importantly, we visited my grandma and grandpa.

I visited this cemetery often when I was a child with my mom and grandma. My grandpa died when my mom was in college, so I never got to meet him but I feel like I know him if only because of the stories that my mom and grandma have told over the years, and the cemetery visits.

Grabbing water from the nearby spigot, planting flowers by his (now their) grave; visiting every Memorial Day to honor him with a flag; walking around the cemetery and seeing familiar names; names that now grace street signs in the town adjacent.

We know our loved ones aren’t “there” but sometimes it’s just good to have a place to talk to our them. A tangible place on Earth, close to where they lived, worked and died, to honor them. Every time I am there, I feel at home for some strange reason. Just seeing my grandma and grandpa’s names etched in marble, sitting in the same spot it was when I was a child, makes me feel comfortable.

They lived, they were important, they had meaning.

There are several family members buried in this cemetery; aunts, uncles, great-grandparents, and so on.

So like the worst family reunion ever, we go from grave to grave to visit everyone while we are there.

We happened upon my Aunt Minnie’s grave (yes that’s her name; no it’s not short for anything else), and happened to see this metal heart.

I looked at my mom and said, “umm I have that exact heart in my garden”.

I’ve had it forever, even forgetting where I got it in the first place. If you know me, you know I love stuff like this, I almost squealed. I know some think it’s just a coincidence and I will forever think it is not.

Country roads take me home…..

We didn’t spend the entire weekend in the cemetery, I promise. We had a girls night dinner complete with margaritas with some of our family, went to an old haunt and had ice cream while visiting with friends.

My mom and her best friend eating ice cream and catching up.

There is just something about sitting at a restaurant that was actually there when I lived there that feels so comforting. This little ice cream shop was actually my brother’s first job and is located right across the street from the nursing home where my mom worked the last year we lived in Ohio. Funny story, I learned from a former classmate (who worked at that same nursing home) that my mom tried to save his job in 1988 because he wanted to skip work on Senior Ditch Day which was coming up and he was scheduled. She didn’t win her fight for him and he lost his job but he never forgot her kindness.

He’s a minister now. 

Then that up there happened the morning of the reunion.

We had a cooler in the back that was charging and I forgot to unplug it before bed because I was still floating on happy memories from the night before, as well as seven hours of travel on three hours of sleep.

Thank God my cousband (cousin’s husband) was there to help jump start my car.

He told me to drive around for a bit to let the battery charge up before heading to my friend’s house to set up for the reunion.

OKAY, IF I HAVE TO.

I ended up driving to my Uncle’s old house which is about 15 minutes away.

If I’d never had a dead battery, I would never have made the time to drive down the roads of my childhood.

Again, I don’t believe in coincidences so I will just leave that here.

Central Elementary

If hell had a hallway, that up there would be it.

Long story short, I had a teacher in third grade who should have lost her job. She was abusive physically and mentally toward her students and for years, I couldn’t even go near the school because of the hideous memories.

It was during the third-grade year that I missed so much school I almost had to repeat a grade because I was frightened of her.

I vomited every morning and when I didn’t vomit in the morning, I would vomit at school and be in the nurses’ office.

It was traumatic for me and for my parents, to say the least.

This is why I think tenure should go away.

Forever.

So part of our reunion entailed visits to the schools we attended which included three elementary schools, a junior high, and the high school which is where the reunion was going to be held at the end of the day.

At first, I was so excited at the prospect of seeing old schools as I hadn’t been in most of them in over 35 years.

With the exception of Central Elementary.

I only spent one year there, third grade.

Let me paint the scene: When I was seven, I had moved to Ohio from Illinois after living here for five years. We moved into a house near one of the elementary schools, and I attended second grade there. It was at the beginning of third grade that my parents found and fell in love with another home but I would be attending a totally different elementary school: Central.

We moved in November, and I started Central immediately thereafter and got a peach of an educator.

I was going to share her name and face here but then I recently found her obituary from 2012 and don’t want to be that Google search for her many children to find this and hear this story.

It was her legacy, not theirs but I hope to GOD none of her many spawn became teachers.

Oh and get this, according to her obituary, her husband was a minister, and she a “faithful” and “involved” church member.

Here’s a lesson kids: just because you go to church, have a husband who is a minister, and donate time at the church rummage sale, does not make you a Christian

Side note-I didn’t see this post taking a dark turn but boy is this cathartic.

The nine circles of Hell aka my third-grade classroom

We all joked while taking the tour that maybe we went to school in prison because of how old and decrepit our schools were.

NOW, I know this is some 35 years plus later, but they were this shitty 35 plus years ago.

Trust us.

Side note- I came home from the reunion and had my first ever full blown panic attack (the ones I had before were anxiety attacks apparently). I woke up from a dead (see what I did there) sleep and felt like someone was suffocating me. I was gasping for air, crying, it was terrible.

YOU KNOW I thought it was my third-grade teacher, suffocating me from hell. DONT TELL ME I AM WRONG.

Annnnnnd the humor is back.

#buryingmyfeelingsince1978

What are ya in for?

My old junior high (we didn’t call it middle school like they do here) was a much better experience because I was a good 5000 feet from Central Elementary.

See? PRISON.  I mean, just look:

By the way, those prison bathrooms had very short doors. Creepy AF considering that when you are in junior-middle school, you are GROWING TALLER.

Except for me.

I look like I am in fifth grade here.

I am actually in seventh. 

Next stop on our tour, the classroom where I got my first period! 8th period (see what I did there as well), science class with a teacher who desperately wanted to be a student but was really generous with bathroom passes.

I remember I was wearing white pants and an Esprit sweatshirt when I “became a woman” in the prison bathroom.

That sounds dirtier than what I wanted it to.

Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, Central Elementary will be watching you. 

That up there was my art room in 7th grade. I was terrible at art but I good at drooling at my teacher, Mr. Hoffman. Or Hotty McHotty Pants as he was known to all the students but unbeknownst to him. I had him as my homeroom teacher which meant I got to start every single day of my angst-ridden seventh-grade year staring at his face.

Image result for shawshank redemption

 

Fun fact- The Shawshank Redemption was filmed about 15 miles from my school and in and around the county I grew up in.

So when we were touring the schools, we wondered if some of the scenes were filmed IN our junior high.

Case in point:

You see it.

Don’t you?

Hooray for good teachers

So let’s get to the good stuff, shall we? I was walking with a lovely group of former classmates around the junior high when we come around the corner and see some other classmates surrounding the woman above.

My former classmate says to me, “Kari, look who’s here!”

Of course, I didn’t know who it was immediately, then a mention that it is our sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Nye.

She was the perfect antithesis to my third-grade teacher; someone whom I had to take years to recover from because I had anxiety but we didn’t know that’s what it was called back then.

Being evolved with every generation is a good thing.

I was lucky to get amazing teachers in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade but the damage from Satan’s minion was done and I had a hard time trusting teachers (and adults, for that matter) for a very long time.

By 6th grade, I was getting a little better and Mrs. Nye was perfect for me.

She was kind, quiet, and a tad introverted but not too much as to be able to stand in front of a classroom of snarky sixth graders and teach five days a week.

I remember having to choose a topic for a presentation I was to give to my sixth-grade class and I chose computers. Why? I have no answer for you. You have to remember, this was 1982, computers were like robots to us back then. Everyone was fascinated by them but no one knew one damn thing about them.  But all the good topics were probably chosen seeing as my lack of motivation in 2018 me is probably very similar to 1982 me.

I remember the entire class was glazed over as I gave a presentation about something no one had a remote interest in.

Including myself.

The rest was hazy but I do remember after receiving my D grade on a paper I didn’t do much research on, I pretty much plagiarized, and that I probably wrote the night before, Mrs. Nye gently told me to stick to what I know not what I think I should know.

I didn’t realize it until the ride home but seeing Mrs. Nye was just what I needed on this emotionally charged stroll down memory lane.

I wrote on Facebook the following blurb the day after the reunion:

 

So many amazing stories from my high school reunion that I’m sure I’ll write about soon but this is the one I want to share today.

This is my 6th-grade teacher, Mrs. Nye. She came to the school tours and had a yearbook from the year I was in her class. I guess at the end of the year, she had us sign the book (see the second picture).

I asked a fellow classmate to take a picture of me with my teacher and when I went into my phone, I saw this. To be clear, I liked my 6th-grade teacher, I liked the person taking the picture, and I hadn’t been drinking. She looks so happy and I look confused. Then I read what I wrote on the yearbook and it all makes sense.

That was probably the face I made during 6th-grade math. Full circle.

 

And I shared this picture:

I’m never ready for a picture even when I should be but I loved the hell out of this and seeing Mrs. Nye again was probably the best part of the reunion for me, if I am being honest. Teachers just don’t realize how much power they have over childhood memories, good and bad. And after getting the ninth circle of hell over with at Central, I choose to remember the good.  Mrs. Nye was good people, and as I wrote in her yearbook the day of the reunion, “it is because of you I am who I am today”.

She doesn’t read my blog, so she will take that as a compliment. 

 

My high school gym floor

I hadn’t been back to my high school since June of 1988. It’s funny how I could not WAIT to get the hell out of that place but now I couldn’t WAIT to get back in.

Partly because this building may not be here in five years, mostly because of the people who were going to fill it that evening.

It’s funny how memories can do that to you; how smells of the wax they use on the floors can bring you back to freshman year gym class or how the smell of the biology lab can bring you back to 10th-grade frog dissection.

The cafeteria table I sat my senior year

Entering my high school cafeteria to set up for the reunion, I immediately remembered eating tuna salad sandwiches, Fritos, and orange drink every single day during my senior year.

What do they call that?

Being in a place brings back more memories than talking about it.

Something-recognition.

Going back to the scene of the crime.

 

The one thing I noticed different about the 30-year reunion, as opposed to the 10-year reunion, was the lack of bragging. I remember everyone talking about what they were doing, where the went to college, where they traveled, their weddings BLAH BLAH BLAH.

Oh sure, I had a good time but I felt like most people were dwelling on who they were at that reunion.


via GIPHY

This time around, I felt like most people were just so happy to see each other. Going in for a hug, then pulling back and genuinely looking into their face for recognition of their former selves.

I met only one person who seemed interested in titles (his titles, I should say. I couldn’t get in edgewise about my hamster training). But for the most part, I was completely honest with who I was, even telling one classmate (who said he was a technical writer) that I do something similar only he gets paid.

It’s funny, a lot of people didn’t recognize me at first during the reunion.

I hadn’t been to a reunion since our ten-year in 1998, so it didn’t really surprise me but over the course of several hours I started to realize why.

I wasn’t me in high school.

At the reunion I was confident, making jokes, and really happy.

I am quite positive that in my years at the high school, that part of me came out a lot less in four years than it did in four hours that evening.

I wasn’t brooding and sullen in high school, but I wasn’t me either.

I didn’t have the confidence that years of really living life can give to you.

I was boxed in by what others thought of me, by my anxiety and the choices that anxiety brought with it.

I also didn’t have glasses, which when I took them off at the end of the night, I got so many OH GOD NOW I REMEMBER YOU.

So maybe I am not as evolved as I’d like to think I am. 

I also didn’t have this chick.

The Beavis to my Butthead. Or vice versa, I am not sure.

She essentially planned the entire reunion by herself, with some minimal help from myself and really, a couple others.

We weren’t friends in high school, just acquaintances but this entire day made me wonder what would I have been like if we had been friends back then?

Maybe the same, maybe different. It makes you realize that sometimes, as a parent, you can try really hard to shape your kids but at the end of the day, it’s who they surround themselves with that makes them who they are.

Maybe not.

All I know is that I am really glad I went to the reunion and maybe I will even go again in five years.

Need to get those hamsters trained really good if I want to brag about it.

via GIPHY

I love to write about my family, John Hughes, tacos and Bruce Hornsby. Not necessarily in that order.

20 Comments

  • Rita

    Ah, Kari–so much in here! I am so glad you got to have all those experiences at your reunion. I had a sadistic principal in elementary school, so I get the scarring done by that 3rd grade teacher. That merde’s real. It’s so bizarre to me that I’ve somehow gotten as old as I am and to realize that so much of my life happened quite a while ago now. Somehow I felt that in this post. Or maybe I’m projecting. Anyway, lived reading this. And glad to know we’re not the only ones who visit cemeteries like that!

  • Mrs K @ Mrs Kringle's Kitchen

    What an emotional reunion in so many ways. When you don’t have those places to visit on the regular because of distance, it brings up so much. I believe all of those things from the battery to the heart happened for a reason too. How fun you were able to share that with your mama too. She looks like a hoot and the love between you two is so evident and easy to see where you got your good looks. I’m glad people seem to be more focused on what matters now instead of the measuring stick of life that most people are obsessed with at the earlier reunions. Maybe one day I’ll go to one. Hmm…probably not. Bwaaahaha!

    My husband was taught by nuns which has its own set of issues but his first day of either kindergarten or first grade, he was rambunctious and the teacher duct taped his mouth shut, made him wear it all day and walked him to the bus and told the driver to make him wear it home. When she was out of sight, the driver told him to take it off. He said very vividly that was the day the person he was supposed to be died. He is only just now starting to dig out the person buried that day. He was also b*tch slapped in high school when he innocently questioned a teacher. So many told him to report her and they would back him up but he never did. Neither of these situations or yours would fly these days, thank God but the damage was already done. (Now you have the opposite where teachers have no power to actually do their jobs but don’t get me started there.) When my parents were divorcing in the mid-80’s, my 4th grade teacher gave me a special gift at Christmas of a stuffed mouse a friend of hers made and told me I couldn’t tell the other students. I would cry every day in class thinking my mom was going to leave me too and she felt horrible for me and said if I ever felt alone to hug the mouse and remember someone cared. I still have it 35 years later. Teachers have the power to make or break us and they should never forget that.
    Mrs K @ Mrs Kringle’s Kitchen recently posted…Pesto MeatballsMy Profile

  • Beth Tilberg Cahill

    Oh I am completely addicted to your blog now. This sealed the deal. I laughed and reared up just a little while reading it and will be thinking about it off and on for days! I grew up in Ohio, too and share some of your feelings about THOSE years. I’m a teacher now, one of life’s great ironies.

    I am sharing this with some of those high school friends today. What a kick in the head.

    Please, tell me where in Ohio this took place?Unless you wish to protect the innocent. 🤓

    • Kari Wagner Hoban

      I am SO happy to have a new reader! And that you are addicted makes me even happier. 🙂

      Where in Ohio did you grow up?? I have several readers who grew up in Ohio (other than friends from childhood), which is so interesting to me. Maybe I appeal to a former Ohioan because I am a former Ohioan LOL.

      I grew up in Lexington Ohio which is just outside of Mansfield. It’s funny, I had a childhood friend message me on Facebook this morning asking who the teacher was and she said she didn’t remember her. She is lucky. 🙂

  • Jessie

    Girl, your third grade teacher is going to haunt my dreams now. Scary! I never thought about schools looking like prisons but they DO. Cousbands 🤣.

    Our third grade teacher took it upon herself to tell each new crop of children that Santa wasn’t real. She did this before Christmas each year. Yep. We’ll never forget her grinchy self.

    Your brave. I’ll never go to my reunions.

  • Melanie

    Can you believe I have never been to any of my class reunions? There’s a good reason though: for 3-1/2 years during my teen years, we lived in KY. I went to school there from the middle of 8th grade – junior year. (Oh, and BTW, this 8th grade teacher was physically abusive, too – I actually got paddled for talking. It hurt like hell. I still remember the humiliation, the physical pain, and my father calling the school when he found out and saying, “You ever touch my daughter again, you will have me to deal with.”) We moved back to IL when I was a senior in high school. I was a “hick” from a tiny high school in KY who moved back to Skokie in her senior year and went to a predominately Jewish high school. Talk about not fitting in! Most of my friends were Freshmen, since they were new to the school, too. So I have no desire to go to a high school reunion where I went to a school for one year and barely knew anyone. Now if my school in KY ever has a reunion, perhaps I’ll travel there and go to that one.

    I loved reading about your experience (why do school look like jails?!) and how you also made this into a road trip with your mom. Oh – and I loved my 6th grade teacher, too – Mr. Hanasz. I was an extremely shy, chubby, geeky girl who loved to write (surprise!). One day we learned about Haiku and we all had to write a Haiku poem. I remember Mr. Hanasz saying, “This is so good, it should be in a book!” Of course, it was terrible and he was just saying that to boost my self-esteem – which it did. So yeah, I still remember Mr. Hanasz, what he said to me, how I felt…and that stupid poem. You want to hear the poem now, don’t you? OK, here goes (I’m sinking into a hole right now…or maybe I should try and find an agent):

    The horse runs freely
    Across the golden meadow
    The wind goes with him

    • Kari Wagner Hoban

      I love this so much and I also love that this post brought out all the memories for you. Sorry about the paddling, and yes that is abuse. It is exactly what my third-grade teacher did. I have heard over the years people trying to make it right in their heads by saying, oh that is what they did back then. IT STILL ISN’T RIGHT OR APPROPRIATE EVEN IF IT WAS WHAT THEY DID.

      I want your autograph now for when you become famous. 🙂

  • Ani Kay

    So glad you made it out alive! And whoa, what an amazing trip down memory lane (memory row?). I love road trips with my mom too. We talk the entire time and I love those new stories, like little gems among the ones you’ve heard over and over.

    When I went to my ten year reunion I was so excited to tell people that I was a scientist. Sure I was technically a metrologist, which essentially means I calibrated tools all day, but shit, metrology is an -ology, and if I was doing something with an -ology, I was a scientist! But I see what you mean, if I were to attend my twenty year, I don’t think I’d be so eager to prove that I have a cool job, or that I’m doing something worthwhile.

    I love the matching hearts! Such a special piece of the trip you get to take home with you and see every day when you pass it in your yard. Sometimes the universe is so good!
    Ani Kay recently posted…I Heart Nashville, So HardMy Profile

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