High school was the pits for me. Maybe it was my ankle-length gathered skirts, unshaven legs (which my mother assured me looked just fine) and the saddle shoes that set me apart from the others. Combining my lack of fashion sense with my incessant studying definitely qualified me for the “out group.” In a class of more than 400 students, I felt disconnected. The “in group” girls waltzed through the hallways every day perfectly groomed in their plaid tight skirts, nylons, and penny loafers. No hair on their legs. Everything about them was perfect—at least, that’s the way they appeared to me. Plus, guess what? They dated, and even got asked to the prom.

So when the e-mail appeared in my mailbox with a list of women I hardly knew, I wondered, Why would a Mounds View High School classmate invite me to a mini-reunion? Most of the ladies on the list were cheerleaders, honor students, and class leaders, and had grown up together in the Mounds View area. I, on the other hand, spent my elementary years in the city until my parents transplanted the family to New Brighton, Minnesota—a rural suburb of Minneapolis—where I started junior high with no friends in sight.

I was wary. But I figured, “Oh, what the heck. Go.”

The day of the event, I loaded myself into the car along with my Trader Joe’s brownies, a bag of photos, and a bottle of Italian wine for the hostess. Cruising west on I-94, my mind jumped from one negative thought to another. Did I have on the right outfit? Would I recognize anyone? Even worse, would they recognize me?

Arriving at the home overlooking Lake Johanna, I walked up the steps and knocked on the door. The hostess greeted me with a vibrant smile. In spite of the wet hair from her shower, and despite our wrinkles, I recognized her and she recognized me!

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADiane Dettmann (left), whose laugh resonated with Sharon Radmann Chatterton (right) after a gap of 50 years.

Before lunch, one of my classmates lead us in grace, asking God’s blessings on us and the afternoon ahead. Gathered amiably around the table on the deck, the nine of us munched on delicious salads, fruit pizza, and desserts. A couple of the women talked about their involvement in outreach programs that helped support people living in impoverished conditions in South Africa and Haiti. One woman, who was widowed, had recently taken up hooping. She loved it—her knee, not so much. But no matter what her knee thought, she had no intention of giving up. The challenging exercise helped her process her grief.

A couple of women reminisced about their cheerleading days. I had tried out, but the cramps in my legs from practicing every day for a month made it impossible to successfully complete a cheer in front of the judges. A high school classmate across the table smiled and said she’d had the same problem and didn’t make the squad either. Remembering the painful experience, we both broke out laughing.

After lunch, our hostess took us on a tour of the lake. As the pontoon boat glided along, I thought that, even though we weren’t that close in high school and our lives had moved in a variety of directions, we had more in common than I thought. These women radiated vitality, humor, and a strong sense of self.

After the relaxing pontoon ride, we hiked up the steep steps and gathered in the front porch. My classmates wanted to know about my writing life. Like many authors, I always carry copies of my books in the car, and was more than happy to have an impromptu book signing. The afternoon ended with hugs and promises to get together again next year.

Driving home, I realized that 50 years had passed by as fast as the scenery at the side of the freeway. Spending a wonderful afternoon with these ladies made me realize that all of us had experienced changes, both positive and negative, that had impacted our lives. Now, at the age of 66, the things we valued in high school—like clothes, hairdos , or the group we hung out with—weren’t all that important anymore. Our life experiences had pulled us out of ourselves, allowing us to embrace our broader community and connect in meaningful ways.

I’m still not totally sure why, after almost 50 years, this group of fine, accomplished women had included me in the e-mail invitation, but I’m happy we reconnected. I truly believe that people pass through our lives for a reason. As we interact, we leave impressions on each other’s lives. The hockey cheerleader’s comment to me says it all: “I knew it was you before I saw your face. I recognized your laugh right away!”

HSAlumniThe group.

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  • Diane Dettmann October 14, 2013 at 9:56 am

    Joy, thanks for the wonderful response to my “reconnecting” article. I still have one close friend from high school who I consider my bff. We don’t get together often, but when we do the friendship sparks, the laughter rolls and it’s like we were never apart. I’m with you, “go figure.”:) Thank you for the blessing and inspiration. Best to you!

    Reply
  • Joy Hill October 13, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Diane I loved your article, and I am kind of like that with our class too. I had my friends but wasn’t friends with the cheerleaders or popular and won’t attend a reunion because honestly, there are some people i still don’t care to see. The funny thing though is that yes, i now talk to those girls and i am actually friends with a couple of them now. Go figure huh? God bless and keep up the good work..

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  • Pam Taverner September 23, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Thanks for sending some of us here from the NEA-Retired Facebook page. Obviously many of us identified with your not-so-great memories of high school. I didn’t return to my home state to attend any of my own class’s reunions until I was arm-twisted into going to the 20th. By then most folks were over bragging about homes, spouses, cars, and houses, and I had a wonderful time! In fact, it was good enough that I haven’t wanted to “spoil” it by going to any reunions since. After reading your article, and with the thought that our 50th reunion is coming up in just a few years, maybe I will go to that one after all. Thanks,Diane!

    Reply
  • Bobbie Halseth Clausen September 18, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Thank you, Diane, for the great article. I now listen to my own daughters as they reminisce about their high school days. And, I hear the same stories about the competition, the insecurities, the concerns about outfits and hairdos, etc. After being an attentive listener, I share with them that years ago their mother had the same uncertainties. Those feelings, I guess, must be part of growing up!

    Reply
  • Diane Dettmann September 18, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Wishing I could thank each and everyone of you individually for your insightful and affirming comments! Sharing our stories and experiences with others reveals commonalities that bond us in many ways. Your heartfelt responses inspire me as a woman and as a writer. A special thank you to WVFC for reaching out to me and encouraging me to share my experiences with this awesome community of women.

    Reply
  • Linda Rost September 18, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Diane’s view of that delightful day was very personal, but much of it was shared by myself and likely most of us women who attended that little event! High School has a way of bringing out the insecurities of adolescence. It’s often shocking to realize how much that tiny bit of time can affect our big lives, if only by limiting our perceptions of others. Yay for reunions…and big, expanded lives!

    Reply
  • Beth Camp September 18, 2013 at 1:01 am

    Diane’s article gives a lovely looking back to a time that wasn’t easy for many, but that celebrates the journeys each woman has taken. I too went to many high schools, somewhere between 12 and 14. Sometimes I wonder about the people I knew then. This article suggests some made it through to happy, productive lives. May we all be so blessed!

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  • Nora September 17, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    Diane is the kind of person who leaves a positive impression wrapped within her wide and warm smile. She has a way of comforting, inspiring and reminding those who know her of the wonderful sense of friendship. Love her writing style and love her vivacious personality and even though, I only met her twice I feel that we have been friends for a very long time.

    It’s so nice to see friends get together after such a long time and share their experiences of life from then and now, enjoy your annual gathering, and Diane, keep up the lovely work. love you girl, and miss you, best od wishes to all of you.

    Reply
  • Pat Murphy September 17, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    Diane:

    How you have captured the hearts and spirits of those of us who were there that day. It was a day without competition or fear of being the best or looking the best. Just a blending of our lives of 66 years. Thanks for sharing what, I know we all felt!

    Blessings,
    Pat Murphy

    Reply
  • roz warren September 17, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Wonderful! Thanks.

    Reply
  • sharon cass September 17, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    What an interesting story Diane, how you were able to meet up with Sharon Rad man after 50 years quiet impressive. found this story to be very interesting I remember Sharon Radman also from High school since I graduated from Mounds view High also. thanks for sharing

    Sharon Cass

    Reply
  • Pennie Bixler September 17, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    As always, your writing is excellent, Diane. So glad the night turned out to be a success! But, seriously – how could anyone not like you? 😉

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  • Jane Beulke Wiederholt September 17, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Beautifully expressed as you always do, Diane. I see a few familiar faces in this group on lovely Lake Johanna. I taught swimming there a few summers after we graduated – my fellow instructor was another woman in our MVHS class – we became great friends that summer but never even met in high school – the life of a baby boomer I guess 🙂

    Reply
  • Pat Snyder September 17, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    I love Diane’s writing and identified with this story right away. Sent the link to my sister and daughter to enjoy.

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  • Janell Christmann September 17, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I enjoyed this article. Diane is my neighbor in Afton. Although she was in a class of 400 and I had 36 classmates, the experience is the same. With old friends and acquaintances, you seem to pick up where you left off, remembering mainly the good times.

    Reply
  • Kim September 17, 2013 at 11:51 am

    As I have never attended a gathering such as the one you described (yet have a vivid enough imagination to picture how I’d feel were I invited to one, as you were)…and I’ve got to say: Kudos! You took a leap of faith, and rediscovered the fact that you too are a “fine, accomplished woman”!

    Great job, Diane. Thanks for your candor, and your excellence in making the event “real” for your readers.

    Reply
  • Diane Dettmann September 17, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Thanks, Hillsmom, can’t imagine 4 high schools!

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  • hillsmom September 17, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Excellent article/experience…so that’s what it might be like. Having gone to 4 high schools, I personally wouldn’t know where to begin. Good for you!

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  • Sharon September 17, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Diane captured the day with words so perfectly chosen to paint the picture. This shows how highschool years are only a tiny piece of who we are. After 50 years I remembered Diane because I recognized a deep piece of who she is….I rememberd her soul laughter. A valuable classmate moved quietly through the halls of Mounds View and now she is a star.

    Reply
  • Linda Paulson September 17, 2013 at 10:51 am

    Loved Diane Dettman’s “Reconnecting…” article. She writes in such a way that even a Mounds View Misstang can understand and relate to.

    Reply
  • Karen Grossaint September 17, 2013 at 10:38 am

    How true it is at 66 the “important” things from high school are no longer important. 50 years of living has made a vast difference in what is now special in our lives like reconnecting with classmates and catching up with their lives. The life lessons we’ve learned along the way have opened our hearts and minds to what is truly important in life…family and good friends. Diane, once again, you are right on…great job! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and insights with us.

    Reply