Childhood, Friends, Humor

I Went to My High School Reunion and Lived to Tell

A few weeks ago I wrote about attending my high school reunion and the things I wasn’t going to do before attending the said reunion.

I got a surprisingly positive response from that post and lots of requests for a follow-up post,

Mostly because you really wanted to know if I told everyone that I trained hamsters in my basement.

Sorry to disappoint you.

I did, however, tell someone I invented post-its, to which they responded ROMY AND MICHELE!! then I open mouth kissed them no I didn’t,

So change of plans week of the reunion, I decided to bring my mommy with me on the reunion trip!

My mom hadn’t been back “home” in some time and we decided to right that wrong and make it a girls trip.

My mom, me and my Nikes headed on the open road!

We talked the entire seven-hour trip to Ohio and the entire seven-hour trip back, with the only silence coming when I took a quick nap on the way home because I am apparently too old to attend high school reunions.

We drove around old neighborhoods, visited my mom’s childhood farm, and she told me stories I’d heard and some I hadn’t; I got to see the funeral home (now just a home) where my grandfather’s funeral was held (something I’d never seen even when I lived there); and, most importantly, we visited my grandparents.

I used to go to this cemetery with my mother and grandmother when I was a child. My grandfather died while my mother was in college, so I never met him, but I feel like I know him from the stories my mother and grandmother have told me over the years, as well as the cemetery visits.

Taking water from a nearby spigot and planting flowers by his (now their) grave; visiting every Memorial Day to honor him with a flag; walking around the cemetery and seeing familiar names; names that now grace street signs in the neighboring town.

We know our loved ones aren’t “there,” but it’s still nice to have a place to talk to them. A physical memorial on Earth, close to where they lived, worked, and died. For some strange reason, I feel at home every time I visit. Just seeing my grandparents’ names etched in marble, sitting in the same spot where I was a child makes me feel safe.

They existed, they were significant, and they had meaning.

This cemetery contains the graves of several family members, including aunts, uncles, great-grandparents, and so on.

So, like the worst family reunion ever, we visit everyone while we’re there, going from grave to grave.

We came across this metal heart while visiting my Aunt Minnie’s grave .

“Umm, I have that exact heart in my garden,” I said to my mom.

I’ve had it for so long that I’ve forgotten where I got it. If you know me, you know how much I enjoy things like this; I almost squealed. Some may believe it is a coincidence, but I will always believe it is not.

Country roads take me home.

I promise we didn’t spend the entire weekend in the cemetery. We had a girls’ night out complete with margaritas with some of our family, then we went to an old haunt and had ice cream with friends.

My mom and her best friend Linda eating ice cream and catching up.

There’s just something so comforting about sitting in a restaurant that was there when I was a teenager. This small ice cream shop was my brother’s first job, and it’s right across the street from the nursing home where my mother worked the last year we lived in Ohio.

Funny story, I was told by a former classmate who worked at the same nursing home, my mother tried to save her coworker’s job in 1988 because he wanted to miss work on Senior Ditch Day, which was approaching and for which he was scheduled. He lost his job as a result of her unsuccessful battle on his behalf, but he never forgot her kindness.

He’s a minister now. 

I forgot to unplug the cooler that was charging in the back before going to bed because I was still tired from the previous night’s fun and was also exhausted from the seven-hour drive and three hours of sleep.

Thank God my cousin’s husband was nearby to assist with jump starting my car.

Before going to my friend’s house to set up for the reunion, he instructed me to drive around for a while to let the battery charge up.


Central Elementary

If hell had a hallway, that would be it.

To cut a long story short, I had a third-grade teacher who should have been fired. She was physically and mentally abusive to her students, and I couldn’t go near the school for years because of the horrible memories.

I missed so much school during third grade that I almost had to repeat a grade because I was so frightened of her.

I vomited every morning, and if I didn’t, I would vomit at school and end up in the nurses’ office.

I have trauma to this day because of that evil human.

I found out later that the school district couldn’t get rid of her. Because of tenure.

So, as part of our reunion, we visited the schools we went to, which included three elementary schools, a junior high, and the high school, where the reunion would be held at the end of the day.

I was ecstatic at the prospect of seeing old schools because I hadn’t been in most of them in over 35 years.

Except for Central Elementary School.

I was only there for one year, third grade.

I discovered her obituary from 2012, which stated that her husband was a minister and that she was a “faithful” and “involved” church member.

That is all I will say.

Hell aka my third-grade classroom

We all joked while taking the tour that maybe we went to school in prison because of how old and decrepit our schools were.

NOW, I know this is some 35 years plus later, but they were this shitty 35 plus years ago.

When I got home from the reunion, I had my first full-fledged panic attack (apparently the ones before were anxiety attacks). I awoke from a dead sleep with the sensation that someone was suffocating me. It was horrible, I was gasping for air and crying.

What are ya in for?

My old junior high (we didn’t call it middle school like they do here) was a much better experience because I was a good 5000 feet from Central Elementary.

See? PRISON.  I mean, just look:

By the way, those prison bathrooms had very short doors. Creepy AF considering that when you are in junior-middle school, you are GROWING TALLER.

Except for me.

I look like I am in fifth grade here.

I am actually in seventh. 

Next stop on our tour, the classroom where I got my first period!

I remember I was wearing white pants and an Esprit sweatshirt when I “became a woman” in the prison bathroom.

That sounds dirtier than what I wanted it to.

Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, Central Elementary will be watching you. 

That up there was my art room in 7th grade.

Image result for shawshank redemption

Fun fact- The Shawshank Redemption was filmed about 15 miles from my school and in and around the county I grew up in.

So when we were touring the schools, we wondered if some of the scenes were filmed IN our junior high.

Case in point:

Hooray for good teachers

So let’s get to the good stuff, shall we? I was walking with a lovely group of former classmates around the junior high when we come around the corner and see some other classmates surrounding the woman above.

My former classmate says to me, “Kari, look who’s here!”

Of course, I didn’t know who it was immediately, then a mention that it is our sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Nye.

She was the polar opposite of my third-grade teacher, from whom I had to recover for years because I had anxiety, which we didn’t know was a thing back then.

I was fortunate to have wonderful teachers in fourth, fifth, and sixth grades, but the damage done by Satan’s minion was permanent, and I struggled to trust teachers (and adults, for that matter) for a long time.

By 6th grade, I was getting better and Mrs. Nye was perfect for me.

She was kind, quiet, and a tad introverted but not too much as to be able to stand in front of a classroom of snarky sixth graders and teach five days a week.

I remember being asked to choose a topic for a presentation to my sixth-grade class, and I chose computers. Why? I have no answer for you. Remember, this was 1982, and computers were like robots to us at the time. Everyone was intrigued by them, but no one knew anything about them. However, all of the good topics were probably chosen because my lack of motivation in 1982 me is likely to be very similar to my lack of motivation in 2018 me.

I remember the entire class was glazed over as I gave a presentation about something no one had a remote interest in. Including myself.

The rest was hazy but I do remember after receiving my D grade on a paper I didn’t do much research on, I pretty much plagiarized, and that I probably wrote the night before, Mrs. Nye gently told me to stick to what I know not what I think I should know.

I didn’t realize it until the ride home but seeing Mrs. Nye was just what I needed on this emotionally charged stroll down memory lane.

I’m never ready for a picture, even when I should be, but I loved this and seeing Mrs. Nye again was probably the best part of the reunion for me. Teachers simply do not realize how much power they have over both positive and negative childhood memories. And, having completed the ninth circle of hell at Central, I choose to remember the good. Mrs. Nye was a nice person, and as I wrote in her yearbook on the day of the reunion, “I am who I am today because of you.”

She doesn’t read my blog, so she will take that as a compliment. 

My high school gym floor

I hadn’t been back to my high school since June of 1988. It’s funny how I could not WAIT to get the hell out of that place and now I couldn’t WAIT to get back in.

Partly because this building may not be here in five years, mostly because of the people who were going to fill it that evening.

It’s funny how memories can do that to you; how smells of the wax they use on the floors can bring you back to freshman year gym class or how the smell of the biology lab can bring you back to 10th-grade frog dissection.

The cafeteria table I sat my senior year

Entering my high school cafeteria to set up for the reunion, I immediately remembered eating tuna salad sandwiches, Fritos, and orange drink every single day during my senior year.

What do they call that?

Being in a place brings back more memories than talking about it.

The lack of bragging was the one difference I noticed between the 30-year reunion and the 10-year reunion.

This time around, I felt like most people were just so happy to see each other.

It’s funny, a lot of people didn’t recognize me at first.

I hadn’t been to a reunion since our ten-year in 1998, so it didn’t really surprise me but over the course of several hours I started to realize why.

I wasn’t me in high school.

At the reunion I was confident, making jokes, and really happy.

I am quite positive that in my years at the high school, that part of me came out a lot less in four years than it did in four hours that evening.

I wasn’t brooding and sullen in high school, but I wasn’t me either.

I didn’t have the confidence that years of really living life can give to you.

I was boxed in by what others thought of me, by my anxiety, and the choices that anxiety brought with it.

I also didn’t have glasses, which when I took them off at the end of the night, I got so many OH GOD NOW I REMEMBER YOU.

So maybe I am not as evolved as I’d like to think I am. 

I also didn’t have this chick.

God, I love her.

She essentially planned the entire reunion by herself, with some minimal help from myself and really, a couple others.

We were only acquaintances in high school, but this entire day made me wonder what I would have been like if we had been friends back then.

Maybe the same, maybe different. It makes you realize that sometimes, as a parent, you can try really hard to shape your kids but at the end of the day, it’s who they surround themselves with that makes them who they are.

Maybe not.

All I know is that I’m glad I went to the reunion, and maybe I’ll go again in five years.

If I want to brag about it, I need to get those hamsters really well trained.

20 thoughts on “I Went to My High School Reunion and Lived to Tell”

  1. Ah, Kari–so much in here! I am so glad you got to have all those experiences at your reunion. I had a sadistic principal in elementary school, so I get the scarring done by that 3rd grade teacher. That merde’s real. It’s so bizarre to me that I’ve somehow gotten as old as I am and to realize that so much of my life happened quite a while ago now. Somehow I felt that in this post. Or maybe I’m projecting. Anyway, lived reading this. And glad to know we’re not the only ones who visit cemeteries like that!


  2. What an emotional reunion in so many ways. When you don’t have those places to visit on the regular because of distance, it brings up so much. I believe all of those things from the battery to the heart happened for a reason too. How fun you were able to share that with your mama too. She looks like a hoot and the love between you two is so evident and easy to see where you got your good looks. I’m glad people seem to be more focused on what matters now instead of the measuring stick of life that most people are obsessed with at the earlier reunions. Maybe one day I’ll go to one. Hmm…probably not. Bwaaahaha!

    My husband was taught by nuns which has its own set of issues but his first day of either kindergarten or first grade, he was rambunctious and the teacher duct taped his mouth shut, made him wear it all day and walked him to the bus and told the driver to make him wear it home. When she was out of sight, the driver told him to take it off. He said very vividly that was the day the person he was supposed to be died. He is only just now starting to dig out the person buried that day. He was also b*tch slapped in high school when he innocently questioned a teacher. So many told him to report her and they would back him up but he never did. Neither of these situations or yours would fly these days, thank God but the damage was already done. (Now you have the opposite where teachers have no power to actually do their jobs but don’t get me started there.) When my parents were divorcing in the mid-80’s, my 4th grade teacher gave me a special gift at Christmas of a stuffed mouse a friend of hers made and told me I couldn’t tell the other students. I would cry every day in class thinking my mom was going to leave me too and she felt horrible for me and said if I ever felt alone to hug the mouse and remember someone cared. I still have it 35 years later. Teachers have the power to make or break us and they should never forget that.


    1. THAT is abuse, plain and simple and it pisses me off because they are RELIGIOUS. There is nothing Christian about behavior like that from a grown-ass adult. Maybe if she got laid, she would be a better human being, and Jesus would agree with me on that. 🙂

      God bless your 4th-grade teacher.


  3. Oh I am completely addicted to your blog now. This sealed the deal. I laughed and reared up just a little while reading it and will be thinking about it off and on for days! I grew up in Ohio, too and share some of your feelings about THOSE years. I’m a teacher now, one of life’s great ironies.

    I am sharing this with some of those high school friends today. What a kick in the head.

    Please, tell me where in Ohio this took place?Unless you wish to protect the innocent. 🤓


    1. I am SO happy to have a new reader! And that you are addicted makes me even happier. 🙂

      Where in Ohio did you grow up?? I have several readers who grew up in Ohio (other than friends from childhood), which is so interesting to me. Maybe I appeal to a former Ohioan because I am a former Ohioan LOL.

      I grew up in Lexington Ohio which is just outside of Mansfield. It’s funny, I had a childhood friend message me on Facebook this morning asking who the teacher was and she said she didn’t remember her. She is lucky. 🙂


  4. Girl, your third grade teacher is going to haunt my dreams now. Scary! I never thought about schools looking like prisons but they DO. Cousbands 🤣.

    Our third grade teacher took it upon herself to tell each new crop of children that Santa wasn’t real. She did this before Christmas each year. Yep. We’ll never forget her grinchy self.

    Your brave. I’ll never go to my reunions.


  5. Can you believe I have never been to any of my class reunions? There’s a good reason though: for 3-1/2 years during my teen years, we lived in KY. I went to school there from the middle of 8th grade – junior year. (Oh, and BTW, this 8th grade teacher was physically abusive, too – I actually got paddled for talking. It hurt like hell. I still remember the humiliation, the physical pain, and my father calling the school when he found out and saying, “You ever touch my daughter again, you will have me to deal with.”) We moved back to IL when I was a senior in high school. I was a “hick” from a tiny high school in KY who moved back to Skokie in her senior year and went to a predominately Jewish high school. Talk about not fitting in! Most of my friends were Freshmen, since they were new to the school, too. So I have no desire to go to a high school reunion where I went to a school for one year and barely knew anyone. Now if my school in KY ever has a reunion, perhaps I’ll travel there and go to that one.

    I loved reading about your experience (why do school look like jails?!) and how you also made this into a road trip with your mom. Oh – and I loved my 6th grade teacher, too – Mr. Hanasz. I was an extremely shy, chubby, geeky girl who loved to write (surprise!). One day we learned about Haiku and we all had to write a Haiku poem. I remember Mr. Hanasz saying, “This is so good, it should be in a book!” Of course, it was terrible and he was just saying that to boost my self-esteem – which it did. So yeah, I still remember Mr. Hanasz, what he said to me, how I felt…and that stupid poem. You want to hear the poem now, don’t you? OK, here goes (I’m sinking into a hole right now…or maybe I should try and find an agent):

    The horse runs freely
    Across the golden meadow
    The wind goes with him


    1. I love this so much and I also love that this post brought out all the memories for you. Sorry about the paddling, and yes that is abuse. It is exactly what my third-grade teacher did. I have heard over the years people trying to make it right in their heads by saying, oh that is what they did back then. IT STILL ISN’T RIGHT OR APPROPRIATE EVEN IF IT WAS WHAT THEY DID.

      I want your autograph now for when you become famous. 🙂


  6. So glad you made it out alive! And whoa, what an amazing trip down memory lane (memory row?). I love road trips with my mom too. We talk the entire time and I love those new stories, like little gems among the ones you’ve heard over and over.

    When I went to my ten year reunion I was so excited to tell people that I was a scientist. Sure I was technically a metrologist, which essentially means I calibrated tools all day, but shit, metrology is an -ology, and if I was doing something with an -ology, I was a scientist! But I see what you mean, if I were to attend my twenty year, I don’t think I’d be so eager to prove that I have a cool job, or that I’m doing something worthwhile.

    I love the matching hearts! Such a special piece of the trip you get to take home with you and see every day when you pass it in your yard. Sometimes the universe is so good!


    1. At first, I was like, YOU’RE A METEOROLOGIST. Then I was like, YOU’RE A METROLOGIST?? I have no idea what that is but I am honored you even speak to me as I don’t even know how to calibrate anything. To be clear, I don’t even know what calibrating means.

      Sometimes it IS good, is right. 🙂


      1. I used to get that reaction a lot.
        “OMG you’re a meteorologist, like weather?”
        “No, I’m a metrologist, like calibrating tools”
        “Oh” {disappointed look on their face} “That’s cool too, I guess”
        lol, I guess good for meteorologists that so many people are excited about their profession!


  7. My maternal grandma’s name was Minnie (middle name Evelyn)!
    Wow, what a story about your teacher! I’m with you on the tenure. Some (not all) teachers use it to their advantage and think they can treat students like dirt beneath their feet.


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