This is going to be a very big day for Mike. Tonight he and I will join a group of his peers to celebrate the fiftieth reunion of the Class of 1965 at St. Thomas High School. Next year it will be my turn. As I sit here this morning I find myself wondering where the time went. When I first met Mike he had only been out of high school for just under two years. We were both attending a birthday party for my cousin who was also a graduate of St. Thomas. There were other St. Thomas alums at the celebration that night as well. Most of them lived on the near north side of Houston and had been friends for many years. All of them loved their alma mater, especially Mike.
After Mike and I had married one of my aunts found a photo of the St. Thomas High School graduation of 1965. Ironically Mike and I are standing next to each other in the image, each totally oblivious of the other’s existence. As I recall even my cousin was more than anxious to complete the family formalities on that day so that he might get on with the real celebration with friends. It would take awhile before I saw Mike again. By then he had spent two years at Loyola University in New Orleans which turned out to be a very bad fit for him. Having an alcoholic roommate, a nearby pool hall, and the French Quarter just a trolley ride down the road didn’t help him to focus on academics nor did the choice of a major that didn’t quite capture his interest. Seeing the handwriting on the wall he returned to Houston to consider his future and so happened to be in town when the invitations to the party where we met were extended.
Over the years as we built a family and a life together he never stopped talking about his days at St. Thomas High School. It was apparent that he loved that time of his life so. In fact he seemed to think that the education that he received there was exactly what a young boy needed to become a fine man. He spoke of his teachers and the traditions with a kind of reverence and insisted that if we ever had a son he would send him to St. Thomas no matter how high the tuition might be. Of course we were blessed with girls and so that never became a consideration but I suppose that he still dreams of how wonderful it might be to see his grandsons enjoying the St. Thomas experience.
I can’t tell you how many times he has driven out of his way just to check on the old school. All of our grandchildren have been given the grand tour. Somehow they don’t appear to understand just how important that place is to Mike. It is way more than brick and mortar. It represents a brotherhood to which he will belong forever. When the school holds its “Good Old Boy” luncheons each year he is an eager participant. He returns home smiling and filled with stories about people that I have never known. I listen patiently as he laughingly reiterates the jokes and the tales. I have heard some of the names so often that I feel as though these people are old acquaintances and yet I have no idea what they look like or who they really are.
Many years back St. Thomas decided to create a permanent display of senior rings from the many years that the school has been operating in Houston. They asked for volunteers from each class to donate bands. Mike was so quick to respond that his was the first from his class. He is proud that it is his ring that graces the space for the Class of 1965. He likes to remind me that his grandmother bought the ring for him from the Little Watch Shop on South Shepard Drive. Likewise Mike didn’t hesitate to purchase a memorial brick when the call came out for that fund raising event. He gets a kick out of taking family members to the site where it lays and at least a couple of the grandchildren have been as duly impressed as he hoped they might be.
What I find the most enjoyable about the impending reunion is that Mike has not stressed out over it one bit. His only concession to looking his best this evening has been getting a haircut. Otherwise he is just anxious to hang out with the guys and to see who decides to show up after all these years. How they will manage to recognize one another is beyond me because from what I can see they all look somewhat alike with their thinning white hair, increased girths, and well earned wrinkles. I suppose that none of that really matters to them. As one of the regulars at the annual luncheon always says, the main thing is that they are still here and they all remember those halcyon days when the whole world was beckoning them and anything seemed possible.
The planners of the event did a nice job. This evening we will have dinner at Damien’s restaurant. It helps when many of the class members are closely related to the owners of some of the premiere eateries in the city. It wasn’t that difficult to find a good place willing to handle such a crew. I suspect that Mike is most excited about tomorrow’s venue which will feature a St. Thomas High School football game at the field on the campus. His class won the state championship in their senior year and most of the players on that team are certain to be there. It will be a different feeling for me because I always sat on the opposite side of the field with my classmates from Mt. Carmel and to put it nicely we hated St. Thomas, mostly because we were never able to beat them.
Mike recalls a time when he hung with his buddies while his parents met up with friends for every single football game that was within driving range. Everyone knew everyone else and it was just one big happy family. To this day the school sends out a newsletter and notes when the parents of former students have passed. There are little blurbs about births and graduations and achievements and retirements. In many ways life at St. Thomas High School was and still is much like life in a small town.
It will be fun to see Mike enjoying this evening. I know that he is anxious to see who actually shows up for the celebration. He wanted my cousin to come but I doubt that he will show. He’s busy in Denver and rarely comes to town since his parents died. Other friends may or may not choose to attend but I suspect there will be surprises. The other women and I will probably make small talk and find out that the world is a smaller place than we ever dreamed as we note the coincidences of our lives. The guys in the meantime will reminisce and feel young again and glad to have one more opportunity to be together. That’s what reunions are really all about.