50th high school reunion time? Just show up: Bert Stratton (Opinion)

August 19, 2018

50th high school reunion time? Just show up: Bert Stratton (Opinion)

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio -- Mike, a high school buddy, found me on the Internet and wrote, “I haven’t thought about high school in decades!” He mentioned a few old high school friends.

“I haven’t thought about high school in decades....”

Was he bragging? Like, “I’ve moved on.”

I think about high school fairly often. I even think about grade school and preschool, which is bad, because I didn’t even go to preschool. Here’s some news: “Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety” -- John Tierney in The New York Times, July 8, 2013. I sometimes go to reunions that aren’t even mine. I was at the 50th Cleveland Heights High reunion 10 years ago at Landerhaven party center. My klezmer band was playing in an adjoining room and I dropped in to the reunion to see what I had to look forward to. Everybody looked pretty old. Now my 50th is coming up -- next month, for Charles F. Brush High, South Euclid-Lyndhurst schools.

Last month I went to my wife’s 50th high school reunion in Columbus, Ohio. I survived. I wound up seated with an evangelical couple from Warsaw, Indiana, and told them to come to my upcoming klezmer gig in Fort Wayne, Indiana. We shared a mutual interest in Israel.

My wife’s school, Bexley High, is in suburban Columbus. Bexley was like my high school, but richer and less ethnic. The breakout at Brush decades ago was 25 percent Italian, 25 percent Jewish, and 50 percent white bread. The Jews and Italians were the last of the white ethnics. Now everybody is a pizza bagel.

For my class reunion, I want to see five-minute presentations on “What I’ve done, or learned, in the past 50 years.” But the official reunion committee seems dead-set on bowling, indoor bocce and multiple cash bars. Maybe my close friends and I will organize an unsanctioned mini get-together for the Jewish intellectual clique -- i.e. nerds, i.e. dorks -- at my house. And there might even be breakout sessions for the entrepreneurial tough Jews who never moved away from Cleveland.

Sometimes when my band plays nursing homes, I ask residents if they attended their 50th reunions. A lot of them say yes, and they really enjoyed the reunions. The residents say nobody cares how you look, or your status, when you’re 68. The key thing is to just show up.

Bert Stratton is the leader of the band Funk a Deli, formerly Yiddishe Cup. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. He writes the blog “Klezmer Guy: Real Music and Real Estate.” 


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