45 Years of Friendship The Reunion of Times

Why does anyone choose to attend a high school reunion? Because we’re curious about how our high school classmates faced the challenges of work, family life, and health. Besides, we want to see if they’ve aged better than we have!

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My 45th high school reunion is scheduled for June. I don’t expect that all of the surviving classmates from Notre Dame Academy’s Class of 1970 will be able to attend, but it will be fun to see those old friends in the halls and cafeteria where we spent so much time together.

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Three of us from that class have remained close these four and a half decades. We knew our reunion was coming and decided we don’t want to be the “old ladies” in the corner. We remember being young alumnae, celebrating our 5th and 10th reunions, and noticing how old the 45-year women looked. We wondered if they had ever snuck out of class or attended school dances or had slumber parties and played in intramural basketball games. They certainly gave no evidence they had ever been young, and we didn’t want the current young alums to have those same thoughts about us.

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So, the three of us determined we would do something fun and unexpected to mark our 45 years out of high school. We are taking a trip to Ireland. We arranged the tour through an Irish tour company, but it is not an organized tour, and there will be no tour guides. It will be just us girls behind the wheel, on the wrong side of the car, on the left side of the road-adventure that will take us wherever we want to go. We told our friends and family about our plans, and soon had three more NDA alumnae register to take the trip with us. The six of us will leave Detroit in late June to visit Dublin and other not-so-well known little towns. Our ten-day itinerary will include many of the typical tourist stops where we will listen to music, visit museums, perhaps take a tour of an old mine, and shop for the customary souvenirs like woolen sweaters, Claddaugh jewelry, or Waterford crystal.

Kathleen has traveled to Ireland before. She is a licensed counselor who will surely charm the Irish people she meets as she seeks information about her family history at one of the genealogy centers around the Emerald Isle. She is eager to visit the old stone churches and the cemeteries, hoping to make rubbings from the tombstones of long-dead ancestors from both sides of her family.

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Monica traces her roots to France and Germany, and we tease her that she doesn’t have any leprechaun in her. But she has a close friend in Ireland who has offered her home to us for several days. We will get an up-close look at some of the best attractions in western Ireland, including the Cliffs of Moher, as well as some home-cooked meals and Irish hospitality. Monica is a CPA, and we counted on her to get us the best prices and the most favorable exchange rate for our dollars. Lucky for us, it is the best exchange rate in years, so our dollars will go further.

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Retired grade school math teacher Marietta will travel with her daughter Jennifer. Neither has traveled overseas, so they are reading all they can about Irish history and culture and food. “I want to see how the beer there compares to the beer here,” Marietta notes, “and I am eager to see the Guinness factory to try the real thing there!” We’ll make an effort to stop in Monaghan County, her family’s homeland, to see what she can learn about her Connolly ancestors.

My younger sister Mary Lynn and I traveled to Ireland with our family nine years ago. We want to return to the site of our great-grandmother’s home in County Roscommon to see if we can find any distant relatives from the Degnan, Dugan, and Mackin families. We also want to hunt for any genealogical information about our great-grandfather, said to have descended from a pirate who was shipwrecked off the coast of Ireland when the Spanish Armada was destroyed. Mary Lynn has been to Ireland twice since our family trip, and we are counting on her to lead us through the beautiful countryside to the monuments and historic sites we might not otherwise find.

As a high school Spanish teacher, I’ve done a lot of traveling with high school students so I am looking forward to an all-grown-up-girls trip. I’ve survived homesick travelers, lost passports, misplaced plane tickets, even a student traveler who needed surgery during our trip to Spain. But, I expect only good things on this trip … lots of laughing, gossiping, eating, drinking, and reminiscing … about family and friendship and how quickly time passes.

The calendar proves to us that 45 years have passed since our high school graduation day. We are older, but we aren’t old. We still have the same joy and excitement about the future that we had on our graduation day that June, tempered a bit by wisdom and experience. I am certain we will have a blast, proving to ourselves (and friends yet to be made in Ireland) the truth of their proverb, “The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune.”