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Remembering the days of the old schoolyard.
A personal reflection.
A couple of weeks ago I flew down to Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand, and the city where I spent my teen years, to catch up with a group of school friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen for forty years.
Because I am not on Facebook, I nearly missed the opportunity to attend, and it was only a text message from a former classmate, Ian, that reminded me that the event was on. Originally I was a bit indifferent about attending, but Ian offered me a spare bed at his place and after checking the availability and price of flights, I grabbed one of the last seats remaining.
The people attending were largely part of the 1979 intake with others who arrived in the following years, and finishing during 1983.
Some were travelling from Australia and others from all over New Zealand, so it would have been a little churlish of me not to make the trip.
It seemed that in recent years, the only times I had caught up with some of my old schoolmates was at funerals. Meeting up with them in a less sombre environment might be nicer.
The plan was to meet at a waterfront bar for drinks on the Friday, head up to the school on the Saturday and then meet up again for a meal at a restaurant in the evening.
On Friday evening, Ian and I were the first to arrive at the bar and there were three tables reserved at one end of the room. We ordered drinks and sat waiting for others to arrive. It wasn’t long before some familiar figures showed up, and with the exception of a couple of people, I instantly recognised faces despite not having seen some of them for four decades.
Conversations flowed in groups as about thirty of us mingled and moved the room. Questions about partners, children, careers, parents and siblings were posed as people filled in the gaps of the last forty years and shared memories of those student days. It was curious how different people remembered the same events ever so slightly differently.
Looking at the group of us at one end of the bar, milling around and chatting with each other, I wondered what our younger school selves might have made of the image of us gathered together, approaching 60. We might have thought that there was a bunch of irrelevant old people some of whom looked hauntingly familiar.
On Saturday some of the group headed up to the school, where Janet, the deputy principal, was kind enough to show us around the campus. There had been new buildings built as the school roll had grown to nearly twice the size it was in our day, but there was enough of the old school to bring back vivid memories and stories. There were stories about students, stories about teachers, and even some stories about students and teachers.
I am sure that a few of those stories were retold in the staffroom on the Monday following our visit.
Saturday evening saw us assemble in the function room at a Wellington waterfront restaurant, where a very pleasant evening was spent eating, drinking, storytelling and reminiscing. Contact details were shared or updated. Old photos were shown and new ones were taken.
At the end of the evening, as people hugged and said their goodbyes, there were promises made to not leave it so long before getting together again. I hope this is the case, but part of me can’t help feeling that we promised to keep in touch when we left school forty years ago.
I had some great times in my high school years. I guess most of us there looked back on our school days with fond memories, although perhaps rose-tinted glasses. It is easy to forget that for some, those school days were not the happiest of times.
There were a few absences. Some were overseas living around the world, where the cost and effort to travel back made the journey difficult. Some had decided that they were not interested in attending or reconnecting with old classmates. Some of our group had sadly passed on, some by natural causes, and some by their own hand.
It was fascinating to hear of the lives some of us had led. There were artists, doctors, civil servants, engineers and all manner of careers. Some had done well and retired early, and others had been dealt some hurdles and life had been more of a struggle.
I thought that some of us looked remarkably well despite the years, while others had aged a little less gracefully. Perhaps others looked at me and thought that I hadn’t aged well, but they were all too polite to comment.
The interesting thing was that after forty years, everyone was the same but everyone was different.
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.