Class Reunion 2010
My school has never been the kind to facilitate reunions for its students. It may have never happened except for the existence of Facebook to allow assorted classmates to find one another. As soon as I received the invite I also received a flurry of 'friend' requests and then started seeing lots of profile pics. Stuff I had forgotten (or just neglected to remember) came back to me and I will admit I was somewhat scared of the prospect of attending.
Both my experiences of nerd status as an adolescent and the consumption of too many American teen movies in my life filled me with trepidation. Would I be judged by the standards of my society given how much I have diverged from white picket fence expectations? One friend told me to go because it may be better than I expected and that it was just a few hours of my life. So I did.
And it was much better than I expected. One thing I forgot was that by VCE we all got along pretty well and that last part of our lives together was the most relevant. Another was that two decades had passed and we had all had lives that (I am sure) were different from what we had imagined (if we had imagined anything at all). The night was tiring but that was because it was a whole lot of small talk. With a few exceptions most of us were now strangers. Still it was good to chat and consume finger foods and dance to 80s music.
A young friend of mine makes fun of my daggy dancing. What I discovered that night however was that I dance my age rather than daggy as such. For a moment on that dance floor I felt as if maybe I belonged among my old peers rather than among those I have chosen to fill my life with from uni and since. But this was a passing delusion - I do belong in my present life and feel more me than I ever have.
However it was worth attending the reunion and to be reminded that we all have diverse and challenging and inspiring human lives. It was a good night to party with the old gang at the Sandown Park Hotel. But now onto a much more recent event...
Fiftieth Anniversary 2011
In many ways I am more interested in history than genealogy. And so likewise at the fiftieth anniversary of Noble Park Secondary College (originally Noble Park High School) I was most fascinated by the tales of past students I had never met. We gathered in the school hall for speeches by one student from each decade.
The school started things in a very improvised way - classes were run from a handful of existing public venues in Noble Park while the school itself was constructed back in 1961. By the 70s it was thriving and schools seemed to be a much more integral part of culture back then. Major popular acts like Stevie Wright were booked to perform at school concerts for the restless teens of those days. Then we got into my era and it seemed to be characterized by pop star inspired clothes and television. Since my day the big things seem to have been coming to terms with the Internet and mobile phones. There is so much in every passing decade that nobody can ever do them justice. Still it was interesting.
And I loved the candour of some speeches. The 60s representative commented in her wry way that in her late teens she "left the school under a cloud" and as we sat there wondering what was coming she added that "I have a daughter who is almost as old as me". How we laughed. Current students (volunteers) were there to help run the event and I wonder what impression they formed of the whole event with mature adults making humorous references to teenaged sex and sole parenthood.
I sat with a few classmates and we chatted over the passage of our lives. My contribution to conversation was to ask "how have your 30s compared with your 20s?" One remarked that the 30s have been more fulfilling because of her forming a family. Another related how her 20s were a fantastic time that has seen been dampened by family commitments. It was a contrast and shows how we are all so very different and need to remember that as we make decisions and accept the consequences of them.
Following speeches and the playing of music by old school bands, we were guided round the grounds by current students, divided into our year levels, except I wandered off with some from a year younger than me due to some friendships I had made via things like Student Representative Council. We noticed both the overall sameness of the school but also key differences. Many many more computer rooms was the biggest change. And a shock came in the library in which we exclaimed "what have they done with all the books?"
There were books - a few shelves of them discreetly arrayed round the back of the library. Most space was taken with attractively arranged banks of computers and some comfy lounging areas. A time-capsule was opened and we saw our boring old uniform and a few school magazines I remember contributing to.
As all these strangers from five decades of successive adolescence milled round I got a sense of how very important our public schools are and how proper funding for quality teaching and resources helps to ensure a integrated and mature society. Schools get blamed for so many problems in society but I think that responsibility must be transferred back to the governments that neglect schools and the constituents who allow those governments to do so.