Dec. 19, 2022: Celebrate the Holidays with the Power of Reunion

Monday Morning Magic from Inkandescent® PR + Publishing Co. — To say that it’s astonishing to have graduated from high school 40 years ago is a tad trite, for that sentiment is uttered by almost everyone who attends a reunion decades after graduating. It was true for my classmates who attended our 40th reunion on October 15. But the truth for most of us was that seeing everyone after all these years was comforting as it was inspiring.

Credit for the phenomenal party at the old Lee Tires facility in Conshohocken, PA, goes to our yearbook editor Debbie Bolotin Schwab and her committee — Michele Bondi Stingle, Ruth Jamison Fazio, and Monica Cardamone Palatano. As senior class president, I admit to feeling guilty for not helping plan the event, the excuse being that I moved away from Philly soon after graduation. I am simply grateful to Debbie and the team who picked up the ball and have spearheaded our reunions since 2012.

As I was leaving town after the reunion, I realized how many people I hadn’t gotten to talk to that night; and how many conversations got cut short because another old friend pulled me away. I guessed that others felt the same. So, I cooked up a plan with Debbie and the reunion committee. Through our Facebook page and a column I created on my health and wellness magazine, we began interviewing as many classmates as possible to tell us how their lives have played out.

I think their stories will resonate even if you don’t know these folks. Meet them in the sidebar of the column, and check out photos from the reunion shot by my daughter, photographer/videographer Anna Gibbs. Click here to see the pics:

Why are reunions so powerful? In the article, How High School Reunions Connect Us With the Past, journalist Ellen C. Caldwell turns us on to research by Vered Vinitsky-Seroussi and Robert Zussman, who, in a 1996 study of high school reunions, argue that reunions are a critical vantage point from which to make sense of issues of identity in contemporary America. Because reunions are anchored in the past, we see how people construct their own inward and outward senses of identity.” Scroll down to read more of the research.

We leave you with this parting thought in the poem Childhood, by Rainer Maria Rilke: “It would be good to give much thought, before you try to find words for something so lost, for those long childhood afternoons you knew that vanished so completely –and why? We’re still reminded–: sometimes by a rain, but we can no longer say what it means; life was never again so filled with meeting, with reunion and with passing on as back then, when nothing happened to us except what happens to things and creatures: we lived their world as something human, and became filled to the brim with figures. And became as lonely as a sheperd and as overburdened by vast distances, and summoned and stirred as from far away, and slowly, like a long new thread, introduced into that picture-sequence where now having to go on bewilders us.”

Until next Monday: May you be blessed by the gift of seeing old friends this holiday season and embracing them for all they have given you – the good and sometimes the not-so-good, for these are the experiences that have shaped you. — Hope Katz Gibbs, founder and president, Inkandescent® Inc.

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High School Reunions and the Management of Identity

By Vered Vinitzky-Seroussi, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Robert Zussman, State University of New York at Stony Brook

Organized around an intersection of the past with the present, high school reunions confront those who attend with discontinuities in their own lives as well as the lives of others. Based on observations of and interviews with attendees at five reunions, we argue, contrary to many claims about the contemporary segmentation of the self, that reunion goers can construct accounts of coherent lives by referencing “true selves” independent of appearances.

Although reunion attendees may attempt to manage impressions by controlling information about themselves, these efforts are limited by attendees’ efforts to sustain convictions of their own integrity. However, these convictions also depend on accounts, albeit those directed inward. Moreover, the maintenance of this conviction depends on the successful “neutralization” of others’ judgments.

Although episodic and unevenly attended, high school reunions are a critical vantage point to make sense of identity issues in contemporary America. Although reunions occur in the present, they are organized around an aspect of the past. As a result, reunions are not only an invitation to account for one’s life but virtually a mandate to do so. Moreover, reunions are organized around an aspect of the past in which one’s participation is unusually diffuse. High schools, at least in the United States, are not simply about academic performance but about the general coming of age.

And as a further result, the accounts men and women provide of themselves at reunions tend to account not only for what they have done but also for who they are. They become, in short, an account of identity.

Click here to read more about the research.