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Confessions for the Class of ’66

Sheila Gardner

Two milestones passed last week which took the bounce right out of my mortal coil: my daughter turned 21 and I received an invitation to my 35th high school reunion.

First, I checked the mirror to make sure it was me looking back and not my mother, then I bought a plane ticket for Ohio. Who says you can’t go home again?

I will be joining the my classmates in October as we marvel at the fact that we’re 53-plus — something I guarantee you we never thought about 35 years ago — we have careers and grandchildren, and we have grown up.

What I have learned from attending two previous reunions is that nobody really changes.

We were and are the quintessential baby boomers. We even have our own reunion Web site so I can register and pay via e-mail and credit card.

The boys and girls in the Class of 1966 at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus, Ohio, were Catholic, and for the most part white and middle class. We were taught by nuns, we studied Latin and the girls wore maroon, wool uniforms specifically designed to camouflage the female form.

Most of us went to college and some of us are exceedingly successful. We’ve become accountants and architects, financial planners and fashion designers, writers and Web designers.

The school recently published an alumni and professional directory for all graduates from 1958 through 2000. It was interesting to me that the largest category under occupation was “homemaker” followed by teacher and nurse. For most of us, our ’60s activist, idealistic leanings have been tamed by the realities of middle age.

We have become our parents.

There is something very inviting about spending an evening among people with a shared history. We remember where we were when Kennedy was shot (fifth period, Latin II, Sister Stephanie); what we were doing when the Beatles were on Ed Sullivan for the first time (Blanche Rish’s basement for her 16th birthday party); and how long we could get away with short uniforms before the nuns whipped out the measuring tape (forget about it).

There was no crystal ball to prepare us for the Vietnam War, Woodstock, Kent State and disco.

Nor was there any way for me to know that I would never get the chance to make my peace with Christine Woodward.

I have attended two reunions, the 20th in 1986 and my 30th in 1996. Each time I hoped to find Christine so I could close the chapter written on my 16th birthday – April 14, 1964.

Obviously, I remember this as if it were yesterday.

Christine sat in front of me in homeroom. As I was enjoying the attention generated by the heavy hints I’d dropped that it was my birthday, she turned to me asked, “Sweet 16 and never been kissed?”

I sheepishly nodded yes.

“Oh,” she purred, “I wish I could say that.”

Everybody within earshot laughed, I turned crimson. Could I be any geekier?

That sort of finished it for Christine and me. It sounds so silly now, the incident was over in seconds. But at 16, I was very shy, content to sit back and observe. High school was a perfect breeding ground for this budding journalist.

Years later, though, I was hoping to run into Christine at a reunion. I wanted her to know I had been kissed and wasn’t the loser I thought she thought I was.

But I never got the chance.

Christine Woodward died of breast cancer in 1995. I found out she had been living in Montana which practically made us two Ohio transplants neighbors.

If I hadn’t held so tightly to a personal slight that nobody remembered but me, we might have been friends. I grieved for her and the lost opportunity. I would like to have known the woman that funny girl became.

That leaves me with only one bit of unfinished business for this year’s reunion. And that is to tell Steve Hodges – whom I have known since we were 6 – that there were two reasons I had a crush on him. He was taller than I was and ever since he’d cried on the first day of first grade, I knew he would be a sensitive guy.

My confession will be made more challenging by the fact that Steve has been a priest for about 30 years. The poor man, when he comes to the reunions, everybody wants to tell him their troubles.

What the Class of 1966 really needs among its alumni is a good bartender.

Sheila Gardner is night desk editor at the Nevada Appeal.