Monday, October 27, 2008


by Gina Sestak

Last weekend I attended my 40th high school reunion.

The word "reunion" implies a reconnection, a coming together of things that were separated from one another. I never felt connected in high school, though, so I wasn't sure what to expect.

I attended Sacred Heart, an all-girl Catholic high school in Pittsburgh's Shady Side neighborhood. It was considered the academic high school of the diocesan school system and required an entrance exam for admittance. I went there with high hopes. They were soon dashed.

I wasn't bullied by the other students who, by and large, were normal decent kids. I was bullied by the nuns.

I'd had trouble with the nuns all through grade school, but those nuns had been Franciscans. Sacred Heart was staffed by Sisters of Charity. I thought they might be different. Nicer. They weren't.

Anyone who hasn't attended Catholic school or been under the control of nuns might think that the sisters are sweet holy women, devoted to God and community service. Based on experience in the Catholic school system, I always thought that their primary requirement for teaching sisters was a profound hatred for children.

Only one of my former teachers came to the reunion, the French teacher Sister Patrice. I hadn't had any specific problems with her, so I didn't have to repress the desire for confrontation. That's one of the harder parts. While you're going through these things, it seems normal. Then when you get older and realize how young and vulnerable children and teens are, you get angry.

I didn't really fit in with most of the other students, who by and large seemed to come from middle class families with parents who wanted them to get an education. I ate lunch with a group of girls who didn't quite fit in either. Only one of them came to the reunion.

Surprisingly, the reunion wasn't bad. We ate and danced at Station Square on Saturday night, then went to mass at the old church on Sunday morning and ate lunch in the grade school cafeteria. The school itself no longer exists, merged years ago with Cathedral High to form Oakland Catholic.

What about you, dear readers? Did you enjoy your high school years? Have you been to any reunions lately?


Tory said...

I've never gone to a high school reunion.

I don't remember hating high school. I had a group of friends and did well academically and played in the orchestra.

But my real social life happened at folk dancing, and some of those people I've still kept up with. I saw someone last year who I thought of as all grown up when I was in high school and, from across the room, she hadn't aged a day. Now THAT's amazing!

Martha Reed said...

Gina, I went back to my 25th at Shawnee Mission East HS, Kansas City, and it will probably remain the greatest moment of black humor in my life.

The reunion was held at the Olathe Holiday Inn, a dump that smelled like cat pee in the hallways and I couldn't figure out why that hotel was picked until I realized that the hotel manager was our former class president who had also been our star quarterback plus male lead in the musical. How the mighty had fallen.

The former head cheerleader got drunk on cheap well brand booze and snatched the microphone away from the DJ to 'lead us in our school song" and then sang the wrong song.

Needless to say, I enjoyed the heck out of myself. My best friend Wendy and I went to her house, ordered a pizza, drank some beer and laughed for hours.

Annette said...

I never liked school and have never been to a reunion. I considered going to my 30th last year, but opted against it. I did, however, reconnect with my best friend from high school who went off to New York and became a successful make up artist and won two Emmy awards for her work on All My Children. THAT was the best kind of reunion...just the two of us sitting in Starbucks, talking as though we'd seen each other days ago instead of decades ago.

Joyce said...

I went to my 25th high school reunion back in 2000. It was fun. I was surprised at how friendly everyone was. People who never would have said a word to me in high school actually came up and said hello. The women aged much better than the men did. The ones who were "hot" back then, were, to be polite, not hot anymore. And the cheerleaders were still annoying.

The best reunion was my grade school reunion. It was so much fun! My sixth grade teacher, Mr. Titus, was there. He was one of the best teachers I ever had. He always treated us like adults. To me, he didn't look a day older. And he actually recognized everyone. I went over to introduce myself to him and before I could say anything he said, "Oliphant, you haven't changed a bit!"

I hope I really don't look the same as I did in sixth grade.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Speaking of nuns, I went to a Catholic gradeschool and Sister Evelyn, God Bless Her, was one scary-ass woman.

I loved high-school and I enjoy reconnecting with others I knew way back when. I'm looking forward to next month. I was contacted by my highschool's school district's newsletter after they saw an interview with me in the local paper. They're doing a feature on my new career as an author. I'me excited to see if I get any old contacts from that.

Anonymous said...

Even though my high school years were awful, I've attended all but one reunion, and have enjoyed them, amazingly. That is despite the fact that none of my really good friends from that time ever go. My husband has been to most of them with me, and he was surprised when I said that most of the people we spoke to didn't remember me from high school. They remember me more from reunions, since we'll have our 40th next year.

I also attended Catholic schools, and since our high school was where all the Catholic kids went, I do see all the kids I went to grade school with. At one "grad night" event, with just the grads, I looked around at our group and realized everyone was from my class in grade school.

Since I moved away (not far, but too far away to keep up with people) when I was 18, it has become increasingly important to me to reconnect with people I've known all my life, and more importantly, who have known me that long and recall the not very cool person I was then. As for the cheerleaders, none of whom I was ever friends with, well, they are the ones who manage all the reunions so I'm grateful to them for doing so.

It's good to finally recover from high school, I think.

jnantz said...

I went to my tenth in '02, and saw all of the popular group (I was a fringe kid, talked with everyone, didn't really fit in with any specific clique, for good or ill). It wasn't bad, but it was a lot like I remembered High standing around on the edges of a group's conversation a lot. Oh well. I was always a bit of a loner anyway. S'why I like writing, I guess. Gives me the freedom to be in my own head and not get called out by others for it.

And yeah, I'll probably go to my 20th with my wife. You'll recognize us as the two standing just outside one of the groups.

Dana King said...

Wait a minute! This was your 40th reunion? You graduated from high school when you were three? Why wasn't this in the papers?

Joyce said...

Nice sucking up, Dana!

Gina said...

Nice try, Dana.
Truth be told, I'm getting old!
The worst thing is that I was sure I'd know what I wanted to be when I grew up by now. OK, I do know, I want to be a writer. Just wish I knew how to get stuff published.