For nine 1983 MVRHS grads, reunions become annual

The way they were, December 1969. Bottom, from left, Jenny Bernard, unknown, Lisa Ben David, Katie Alley, unknown. Middle, Trish Moreis (left), Lynn Packish. Top, Julie Williamson. — Photo courtesy of Trish Moreis-Stiles

When people think of high school reunions, their responses tend to fall into two categories: “Do I have to go?” and “Great, I can catch up with everyone.” I fall into the latter category and three years ago I looked forward to the 25th reunion of my class (1983) at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

Admittedly, I am very social. I live in Virginia, so it’s hard to keep in touch, and I couldn’t wait to see my old classmates. It also didn’t hurt that I am a very late bloomer and I wanted to show folks that this ugly duckling had finally grown into a swan — well, sort of. As I walked in the door, one of the first reactions I got was from an elementary school friend, who said, “Wow, I didn’t even recognize you!” Mission accomplished.

Don’t get me wrong: I was nervous. My husband, who falls into the “Do I have to go?” category, would have preferred to be anywhere than at my side, with people he didn’t know, while I socialized with each and every one of them. But for both of us, the reunion turned out to be quite enjoyable. I got the chance to catch up, and I felt like I was home again. My husband made friends at the bar with another husband who didn’t want to be there either.

My trips back to the Vineyard once or twice a year are so harried trying to see my rather large family that I don’t have time to visit friends as much as I would like. The reunion gave me that opportunity, finally.

After a weekend of reconnecting, my girlfriends and I exchanged emails and phone numbers. And then Facebook was born, and we were just one click apart. It was like I was up-Island and they were in Oak Bluffs! I could see updates on their lives and they mine. Now I could re-connect with all of them, sometimes all at once. And there began the annual MVRHS Class of 1983 Ladies’ Reunion.

This past weekend was our third reunion, with nine of us in attendance. Like any other reunion one never knows what to expect, but to me that’s part of the fun. No offense to anyone, but having a group of women anywhere together always packs surprises. You just hope that they will be good ones.

It may sound crazy but prior to the reunion my girlfriends and I were like teenagers. We chatted on the phone and on the beach about who would be there, who kept in touch with whom, and which unfortunate situations to avoid discussing. My off-Island friends thought this whole idea was ludicrous, and some of them made it quite obvious that they would rather be anywhere than with their girlfriends from high school.

I couldn’t wait to see my girlfriends, and the night did not disappoint. As a group most of us were born and raised on the Vineyard. We have 20 kids ranging in age from 6 to 30, and two of us are grandmothers. All but two live on the Island, only one out-of-state. We are small business owners, caterers, editors, photographers, and devoted mothers.

As a whole we have not been as lucky in love, with eight divorces among us, but most are now in loving, committed marriages and relationships. I am one of only two who haven’t been divorced, and I was surprised to hear my girlfriends emphatically state that they had no regrets. I said I thought I would feel differently had I been through what they had. Yet they all shared the same Vineyard philosophy that you should live simply and never look back. I admire them for that.

Through the night we laughed, we caught up, we shared our triumphs and tribulations, we supported one another and gave each other plenty of advice on life. One of the best parts was looking through old pictures and remembering a far simpler and innocent life. Of course we made fun of ourselves, our bad haircuts and our scary 1970s outfits. But there was no drama: we were all there for each other.

That’s what’s unusual about Vineyarders. It feels like our connections run deeper than most. I have friends in this group that I have known for 42 years! We attended the same nursery, elementary, and high school together. Two of the women were born at the Martha’s Vineyard hospital within days of each other, and some met as toddlers and are still family friends. No matter how long we have known each other, the Vineyard will always be home. The cliché, you can’t go home again, doesn’t apply to us. Some of us are already home and some us can’t wait to get back home to the Vineyard. We are already planning next year’s trip home, and I can’t wait.