Back in September of 1959 as I entered Marian High School in Framingham, MA I would have never imagined that 56 years later I would still be friends with people I was about to meet.
This Catholic High School was new. It had opened its doors only three years earlier making my class, the Class of '63, the one which would make it whole. MHS now housed four complete grades and, as is the case with most freshmen, the 180 of us who entered those holy portals were quite intimidated, not so much by the 4 floors of endless corridors or even by the stern demeanor of the habited nuns, but by the fact that we were the newbies, the lowest of the underclassmen. We quickly realized we needed to bond to survive. This was not an easy goal to accomplish.
Many of us had found ourselves here by virtue of having attended various Catholic elementary schools in the area and were, although familiar with the Sisters of Saint Joseph, still quite impressed and intimidated by them. No longer did we have Sister Mary Wonderful who had often coddled us through our first eight years. These nuns really meant business. They even had names that prompted curiosity and awe: Dennisita, Vincentius, Johnessa, Aquinas. They were strict, demanded respect, and taught us everything we needed to know to get into some of the best colleges in the country.
In an effort to organize us we were given home rooms according to the alphabet. Since Joyce was my last name I was grouped with those H through Mers or middle of the pack kids. This would not have necessarily been a bad thing, but since we were not trusted to change classes (the Sisters came to us) we were always together, rarely getting to mingle with those ABCers or XYZers. Lunch, non-academic classes and after school sports, clubs and activities afforded us the opportunity to mingle and, being a relatively small group, we quickly overcame the stigma of alphabet. In fact, we became close.
Sports were a huge unifying force. We had great hockey, football and basketball teams which we enthusiastically supported. We also had great parties after such events which brought us even closer in a more social way. As we matured and began to cross those alphabetically imposed lines we spent many a night dancing in the knotty pine rec rooms of some brave parents.
We also experienced an horrific tragedy which unified us in a way we would have gladly omitted. In our Junior year four students were in a fatal car accident. Two extremely well known and unanimously loved kids lost their lives. Attending funerals and sobbing together as teens is a reality slap in the face that unfortunately binds those affected in an emotionally unforgettable way.
We made the usual wonderful memories with proms, plays, championships, dating and friendships. In fact, twelve members of our class found their love connections at Marian and married after all going separate ways to college. We began having post graduate reunions, many of them. They were all very well attended and immensely enjoyed.
In 2013 we met for our Fiftieth Reunion! Of course, our numbers were fewer. We had lost over twenty classmates and lost track of many more. Those of us who attended felt closer than ever. Our connections were instantly renewed. We didn't waste time with boring banter.
Conversations were deeper. We spent three wonderful days reminiscing, dancing, eating, drinking and talking incessantly and longingly. We laughed at ourselves and the foibles of aging. We vowed to keep in touch, to do this reunion thing more often now.
Three weeks ago ten of us had a mini-reunion at the homes of alumni living in Williamsburg, VA. This was truly special. This was a realization of what it means to be life-long friends. Our talks became even more intimate than at the larger events. Differences of opinions were energetically aired on the subjects of relationships, change in religious and political perspectives, marriage, grandparenthood and death. The deaths of parents, siblings, close friends and fellow members of the Class of '63 were inevitably followed by beautiful stories of those we had lost.
Two of my dearest friends were part of this warm gathering. It was dramatically brought home to me that in this fast-paced, disposable world it is love and friendship that keeps us warm, whole, stable, together. We three all now live in different states and are at three very different places in our lives, but we have stayed close. Through visits, phone calls, social media and trips to celebrate those "wonderful" birthdays that end in zeroes we maintain what I now consider a very sacred connection. Another such celebration is planned for the Fall, one that begins with the number 7! How can this be? It was just 1959!
By Nancy Joyce