Reunionizing

I wrote 1,400 words on the topic of reunions yesterday morning and was just getting warmed up when I realized several things: it was already 10 a.m., my theoretical start time for work; I was over my word limit and still hadn’t made my point, whatever that might have been; and it’s very difficult to fit a blog in while trying to watch the Tour, follow along in a chat room, and catch up on the morning’s news.

Gunnison High School and Cattlemen’s Days are like peanut butter and jelly. You can have one without the other, the way Vann’s daughter and I prefer to eat our peanut butter without jelly, but most people around here put the two together almost automatically.

Cattlemen’s Days is (are?) Gunnison’s biggest event of the year. There are rodeos and a carnival, the culmination of a year of 4-H projects, horse shows and tourists. A parade. And reunions for graduates of Gunnison High School.

As a member of Gunnison High School’s Class of 1980, I helped organize the first reunion, way back in 1990. We decided to stage ours on a different, less hectic summer weekend, which did not sit well with all our classmates, most notably the couple who had booked their tickets months in advance to come back for Cattlemen’s on the automatic assumption that reunionizing would happen that weekend.

Subsequent reunions, then, have dutifully fallen back into traditional line, and take place during Cattlemen’s. They’ve also mostly taken place without me, despite my continued presence here in town.

Like blogging while race spectating, it’s hard to fit everything in on a busy weekend, and reunions have been an easy place to let go. I just don’t think they’re my thing.

I did enjoy my 10th, seeing people gone from kid to grown, often married, sometimes with children, everyone with jobs. I also didn’t get any sense of the rigidity of high school, where even in a small place like Gunnison you had various assorted cliques that didn’t often intermingle.

At the 20th, however, it felt like those high school groups were back in place. A classmate who had been quite friendly to everyone at the 10th came up to me with brochures for her business. As she handed them over, she asked if I was still at the newspaper. “No,” I said, drawing a breath to tell her what I was doing instead. “Oh,” she said, taking back her brochures and walking away.

The next day I put in an appearance during a lunch event, finding my friend Jim simmering behind the grill. He had been one of the organizers of the 20th, and all he’d gotten for his effort was an endless series of complaints.

I’m now wondering if that’s a function of a 20th reunion, because Kara’s friend Courtney this year has organized almost everything herself, and while no one bothered to RSVP in a timely fashion, this week the complaints have been coming in something fierce: Why aren’t we doing something at the lake? Why are we going all the way to Almont? Will Safe Ride come out that far?

Safe Ride, I should note, is a free service for people who have imbibed too many alcoholic beverages. It probably does not go all the way to Almont, 10 miles north of Gunnison, but I should further note that this gathering is from 5-7 p.m. What sort of classmates plan a week in advance to be completely blitzed by 7 p.m.?

To go back 21 years to my 20th, the upshot of people’s unhappiness with Jim’s plans was that several of them — I’m led to believe it was the “popular” kids of 1980 — high-graded all the alcohol from the planned lunch, swiped Jim’s cooler (which he never got back) and headed out to the lake for their own private afternoon party.

That evening I went to the rodeo, where I saw my classmate Debbie. “You’re not at the reunion,” I said. “No,” she replied. “And neither are you.”

Ten years later I skipped my 30th — or it skipped me. All the organization took place on social media, and no one made any effort to find me off social media. Of course, I made no effort to find them, either.

I did blunder into the Sunday morning breakfast when my breakfast peeps inadvertently chose the same restaurant. I recognized a couple of astoundingly old-looking people — I have no idea how they got that way while I maintain my youthful vigor — whom I hadn’t seen in decades, but once again I made no effort to go over to their table, and if anyone noticed me at the other end of the deck they did not seek me out.

I thought a pandemic would be the perfect excuse to not hold a 40th reunion, but it turns out we’re having a 41st reunion this year instead, apparently in conjunction with the Class of ’81. Kara, Class of ’00, is doing the same thing, except that she’s going to her events while so far I am skipping mine.

Months ago Russ, who graduated a few years behind me, stopped by work one day to tell me my classmate Paula was looking for my whereabouts on social media. He laughed, because he didn’t think I was too hard to find, but Paula still hasn’t managed it all these months later. So when classmates asked me if I was going to the reunion, I would tell them I hadn’t been invited.

Until I ran into Steve, Class of ’81, earlier this week. And then Colleen, married to my classmate Chuck and a postal patron of Lynn’s, asked if I was going. Steve gave me the times and locations of two events, and Chuck, dang him, thoughtfully sent a note down to Lynn with the entire schedule written out and his phone number in case I had any questions.

That makes it harder to opt out, although I managed yesterday easily enough, since the “meet and greet” was set for 4-7 p.m. while I was busy working on my sales tax report. There is no way I’m making it to the parade float by 9 this morning — I’m going to have enough trouble just getting downtown to watch the parade that starts at 10ish.

The rest of the events I remain undecided on. It might be kind of fun to tour the high school, which has been extensively remodeled since our days in its halls. Or it might be more fun to get my sales tax report finished on time.

I’m wondering if people I would like to see, from either ’80 or ’81, are coming to town, or if it would just be me talking to myself because I no longer have a job that would benefit a classmate.

Perhaps I will just watch the parade and its reunionists float by, mixing my peanut butter with jelly for one hour, and then consider my weekend sandwich consumed. We’ll see.

Update: After sleeping through his scheduled covid test, Omar was finally ready to talk rapid tests Thursday. I took the two-test kit — the instructions were far more complex than anticipated — to his house, where his mother, also sick but not interested in tests, handled it when she wasn’t supposed to. Good thing there were two in the kit. An hour and a half into a 15-minute rapid test, Omar got a negative result. He called the county, which marked him off its list and didn’t seem interested in any follow-up.

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