Monday, July 23, 2018

30 Plus 1

Last November I received a message from a high school friend I had not seen in 30 years. Vicki was dying. She had cancer and it spread faster than thought possible. Vicki was someone else I had not seen in 30 years. Through the magic of Facebook I had reconnected with some of my high school classmates, but had not taken the extra step to see them in person. Rather than focusing on "why not," I focused on what could I do about that.

A few of us started chatting on Facebook and decided even though it was not a traditional reunion year, we could have one. I created a Facebook group and instantly a bunch of people joined. Barbra searched for viable email addresses for those we could not easily find on Facebook. Using basic statistics, let's say half of our classmates were women. Of that half, many changed their last names, including myself. Others, including the guys, had common enough last names that made it a challenge to figure out which was the right John Smith (totally making up a name here since I don't use last names on my blog). Sadly some died. In the end at least 200 of our 315-ish classmates were located.

Of that bunch, some ignored repeated requests to just get off the fence and commit to going or to not going. A couple of weeks ago we were 25 shy of our 75 person minimum (a number we did not achieve, but the venue kindly worked with us). Day of we had several walk-ins.

Details were taken care of. Decisions were made. Yearbook photos were scanned. Facebook hype was growing. Emails sent out. More emails sent out. More emails sent out. Contests to encourage people to reach out to their cliques, I mean friends, happened. Conference calls happened. 

It was fun being on the committee. Being on the committee helped me to bond with the other committee members and made me look forward to seeing them. I did not attend either the 10 or 20 year reunions. Had it not been for Facebook, I would have completely lost touch with everyone.

Now for the actual event. I went in with more than a little bit of apprehension. Our last conference call did not go so well with only three of us on it, and I had nothing to add. 

The day of the event arrived. The others set up while I dealt with traffic. Thought I was going against shore traffic, but a storm sent many people home early. I had fun getting ready with these ladies. Made me think of the prom experience I didn't have -- I went to the prom, but did not gather with a bunch of girlfriends first to primp and prepare.

We were the first group to hit the photo booth. I obviously think I am way taller with my one-inch pumps than the shorter people in the front row with their higher heels. Wish we had also done a full-body pose. Can never have enough pictures.

Speaking of pictures, I took a lot that night. Anytime I spoke with someone I remembered from the past, I had someone take a picture of us. We were all snapping pictures. I was just the only one using a "real" camera.

With the help of the committee members, I took group photos. For the sake of space, I'll share the ones I am in (taken by someone else with my camera). 

Middle School

Elementary School

High School
(a date took this photo)
I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by name from people I didn't realize knew I even existed in high school. I thought I had flown under the RADAR -- not a geek, not a jock, not a top musician, not a top anything. I was involved with activities, but not a leader. I got decent grades, but not honor society. There was no one in the hit movie The Breakfast Club I could relate to as "yeah, they are picking on me." Mind you, this was when I wasn't wearing my name tag. Most of the people took the time to thank me personally for my work on the committee. Amazing how much a thank you motivates you to sign up the next time a volunteer opportunity arrives.

As for me recognizing others, I was grateful for those name tags! I am so easily fooled by things like a person going from brown hair to becoming a blond. Okay, I'm fooled by someone changing from what they were wearing at the pool to reunion attire 30 minutes later. On a good note, I remember everyone at their best and don't see flaws.

I was super excited to see Chuck, Barbra, Joy, and Diane (as well as others). Diane and Baman (not pictured) made the trek from Europe. Last I saw Diane she was heading to Italy as I was heading to Belgium on exchange. We exchanged a couple of letters, but never took the time to catch up on what (at least to me) was one of my most exciting experiences -- one only another exchange student could understand.

Chuck, Joy, and Barbra are three people I remember lighting up the stage. I admired their talent from the safety of the pit orchestra and the anonymity of the audience. They have each performed since the PHS stage.

There was much debate about when to hold the reunion. By holding it in the summer our attendees skewed towards far away. I already mentioned two traveling from Europe, there were also several West Coasters, someone from Las Vegas, some from Florida and along the East Coast, plus a few locals. There is talk about getting together Thanksgiving Weekend in 2019, the year many of us hit a milestone birthday, and have a low-key celebration at a local restaurant. Hopefully now that we have many email addresses and Facebook connections we can stay connected at least until then.

One of the best decisions we made as a committee was to skip the deejay and have a classmate load a flash drive with 80's music. I heard at the 20th reunion the music was so loud everyone hung out in the hallway. I continued the 80's theme on the drive home by listening to 80's rock on the radio. Amazing how many stations carry music from my youth after midnight. I've heard it said the best music is whatever was popular when you were in high school. 

Those of you debating about going to your reunion, do it. You might be surprised to learn by this point we can be adults and have meaningful conversations, even if we didn't do so in high school. The Republican and the Democrat who spar on Facebook can declare a truce for one night and talk about something else. You can feel young again by being with people who think about you as as teenager -- in a totally good way. If I'm wrong, you can either leave or hit the open bar (if there is one). Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Otterbein College

Post World War II young Joyce from Lancaster, Ohio met returning war veteran Bobby from Trenton, New Jersey at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio. We don't know what brought Bobby all the way to Ohio, though we did learn his mother also attended Otterbein, and was a member of the class of 1911 -- forty years before they attended.

Anyone who has followed my adventures cleaning out their house can easily extrapolate that means they left behind items that would be viewed as treasures by an archivist named Steve.

Steve took time out of his day to tell us about the campus circa-1945. One of the items we donated was a directory. In the directory is a list of where everyone lived, and their graduating class. The book showed that Honey Bunny lived in King Hall (which is now called Dunlap King Hall and has received a face lift).
Pop-Pop, along with many returning vets not used to strict rules, lived off-campus at 125 King Street -- less than a mile walk to campus. We also learned his sister (Ruth) was attending Otterbein at the same time. We really do need to visit with her to learn more about that time period.
Some places are still standing. Some have changed. The football stadium is still called Memorial Stadium (in honor of the veterans), but is a completely new stadium.

The alumni house was the former home of the school president. Not sure where the current president lives. The campus is decorated with many historic signs. The town of Westerville is proud they were dry until very recently. Now students at Otterbein can have beer. 

In addition to meeting the archivist, there were two other highlights. The first was strolling on their Main Street -- a shopping district made up nearly exclusively of independent shops (plus a CVS, and one other national chain that is escaping me now). It was at their consignment shop I was able to replace my pocketbook which broke on the trip.

The second is discovering that a major exists for Theater Design. Ashley had been saying she wanted to study architecture. It turns out, she was using that as a way to learn how to build in order that she could create sets. With a new end goal, the college search became focused, just in time for her to start junior year in high school.

Through a series of missteps we did not get a college tour. Next time life brings us out that way, I would like to learn more about a place that played an important part in Don's life before he was born.

Ohio Highlights

Last week's five day trip was one of my longest to Ohio. The main purpose was to see my Cousin Allie get married (the first of my first cousins to do so). With July 4th on a Wednesday, we decided to take two vacation days and spend time hanging with friends and family.

Here are some highlights day by day.

The Bexley 5k

Party at Aunt Debra and Uncle Tom's home (too tired to take pictures), followed by fireworks. I slept during the parade.

Trip to Otterbein University where Honey Bunny and Pop-Pop met. I dropped off a small pile of ephemera to the school's archivist, Steve.

Seeing Tom's parent's house after all these years. Long before the house complex was built, Debra and Tom got married by this pond in 1981.

Hanging with Heidi as she played volleyball.

Trip to Lancaster, Ohio to drop off slides Honey Bunny took over the years. 

Ashley's highlight: having Jeni's dairy free salted caramel ice cream.

Seeing "Frankenstein" in Schiller Park. This version is the only one Mary Shelley is known to have seen.

Hiking on the Black Lick Trail in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

Plus Allie and Doug's wedding.

The Mom-A-Razzi (Debra and Sandy) taking pictures.

I love this one -- very classic, and very classy.

Allie's gown was beautiful in the front and back.
A new dress with a vintage look.

Post wedding party

Allie wore the dress her mom wore after her 1981 wedding

Cousin Laura, and her honey, Matt.

Aunt Debra and Uncle Tom

A rare sighting -- all four Smith siblings (Sterling, Pete, Tom, and Joanie)

Note, I did not say the drive was a highlight, only a necessary evil. As always, wishing we lived closer to each other.

"My Future Self Will Thank Me"

Ashley has come up with this charming sentiment: "My future self with thank me." 

The expression started when she changed her sheets and fluffed up all the critters on her bed prior to going on a trip. When she saw the clean sheets and clean room after being away from home for a week she exclaimed "My future self is here now!"

The expression has resonated with me. How can I make my "future self" happy? Exercise is one way. My present self might not enjoy running, but my future self is happy with the results.

I've tried to follow her example and have the house clean and the sheets changed before I go away. It does make me happy to come home to a clean kitchen table instead of a pile of clutter I didn't deal with before I left.

What are things you do to make your "future self" happy?

Bexley July 4th 5K

Each summer my cousins post pictures of running in the Bexley (Ohio) 5K race, and each year a part of me wishes I with them. Cousin Allie's July 7th wedding gave us the perfect excuse to spend July 4th with family, rather than doing the Washington Crossing Rev Run with friends.

In an effort to minimize the amount of vacation time Don took for this trip, we left after he came home from work on Tuesday, July 3rd. It is a nine hour drive to Columbus (with a stop for dinner and other breaks). That meant arriving at my aunt and uncle's house at 2 AM for an 8 AM race. Ouch!

Don and I took turns driving. Unfortunately we did not also take turns napping as I stayed awake the whole time. Our new driver, Ashley, had troubles sleeping haunted by images of the movies her Drivers Ed teacher made her class watch. As she is not allowed to drive between the hours of 11 AM and 6 AM, she did not take a driving shift. That and she has only been driving about a week and they go FAST on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Back to the race.

Cousins Laura and Allie, Jordan, Don, and I, and a couple of their friends did a gentle jog to the start line 8/10 of a mile from the house. A 10-minute mile pace was a gentle jog for all but Laura, Don, and I. We caught up to them just before the race and snapped the annual group photo. We bookend the picture.

Looking at the results, there were 333 runners. That is a cool number! Laura picked up bibs for nine of us. Somehow we managed to only mix up two bibs -- hers and Jordans. I took bib number 2525 because I thought it sounded cool. Don grabbed 2524 because it was the only one left.

The Bexley 5K is super flat. It weaves through the section of Bexley starting with Jeffrey Mansion and past the Governor's Mansion (two different big homes). I'm sure my cousins could point out other highlights, such as where their friends lived.

It was 77 degrees at the race with a whopping 91% humidity. You just wanted to tell the skies to get up to 100% humidity and rain already.  As a result I was about a minute a mile slower than usual, and I managed to legitimately finish before Don. At a larger or longer race, I might have walked with him, but I really just wanted to finish. They had two water stops (sounds like they added the second because of the weather conditions). The finish line had Popsicle sticks, in addition to bananas and water.

  Had Don been a year older, he would have placed and won a water bottle. Alas, others were faster in his age category. Don was much happier unicycling later.

Laura slowed down to walk with her friend and her six-year old son. We waited for Laura in order to take our finish line photo.

The race cost $30, not bad for a 5K. What was pretty awesome was that it included a gift card for a free soup or salad from Brassica, a new local restaurant, and a coupon for a classic sub from the local Jimmy John's -- together about an $18 value. This might have been the best race packet ever.

I'd love to say we got a lot more sleep on the rest of the weekend, but that wasn't the case. At 10 PM that night we saw fireworks. Thursday night I watched Heidi play volleyball at 9:30 PM. Friday night we saw "Frankenstein" at Schiller Park in German Village. Saturday night was Allie and Doug's wedding -- remember, the real reason for going to Ohio that weekend. I can always sleep in New Jersey.