Barbie Perkins-Cooper, Author

Living Life in the Country As A Writer, Photographer

CLASS REUNIONS – Budding from a Wallflower to a Rose

Have you ever been to a class reunion and questioned why you bothered to come? Last month, my husband and I returned to my birth town, attending my class reunion. Previously, we’ve attended, only to watch class mates have a good time laughing, dancing, reminiscing while Phil and I sat at the table. Phil could not relate to my history in high school. He did not know me during that time, and perhaps that was a good thing. In high school, I was a wallflower…it didn’t help matters that during four years of high school, I enrolled in six high schools. My family moved lots…then my parents divorced and ever so quickly my mother moved us to our maternal grandparent’s home in Bibb City, the mill village located in Columbus, Georgia. I hated it there…I was rebellious and wanted to get away, but where could I go? I was fifteen-years-old, with a domineering mother who refused to listen to any of my wants or desires. Regretfully, I enrolled in high school with a new determination to graduate and move away from Bibb City. I got involved with the drama club, chorus and other clubs, but in class, I kept to myself.
I had big dreams. My most passionate dream was to move away from Bibb City and become a singer. In high school, I never shared my dreams with anyone. I remained a wallflower…keeping all of my dreams inside my brain.
The class reunions I’ve attended in Columbus were boring, at least for me. Those were the days when my husband dictated my actions. I felt as if he was more of a father to me than a husband…always controlling, dictating and disapproving of me. Many years later, I stood up to him during a fight, letting him know that his days of ruling me were over. After that fight, I slowly developed from a wallflower into a bright, colorful rose, and now, with my newfound courage, no one was going to stop me from doing what I wanted to do!
Many of the pictures I saw of myself from previous reunions revealed my boring actions…sitting at the table…wanting to dance, but too afraid my husband would get angry at me, if I bothered to dance and, as he stated, “make a scene.” This year, the class reunion would be different!
Like all long-term married couples, we’ve battled many difficulties in our marriage. Phil has a jealous streak, and whenever I ‘make a scene’ by getting noticed, or ‘taking over a room,’ let’s just say, he isn’t fun to be around…but the years have passed and I finally told him if he didn’t want to dance, or let me be the person I am today, well…he could stay home. I intended to have some fun. The class reunion this year truly was the best.
Arriving at the reunion, I wore a black and gold evening gown and a gold jacket. I was scheduled to sing, so I wanted to look my best. The dress code was ‘business casual,’ but I wanted to knock everyone’s socks off so they would remember me. I was tired of hearing, “No, I don’t remember you…but it’s nice seeing you again.” Oh please…let’s don’t be pretentious. My response to all of these classmates was, “You might not remember me from high school, but after tonight…you will remember me…You just wait!”
A few months before the reunion a classmate and I discussed the reunion. She heard me sing at a show when she came to Charleston, so she met with the reunion committee, encouraging them to add me to the ‘talent’ list.
My husband is not a dancer, and I love to dance. I have no idea how we fell in love, because we are from different worlds. I love to dance and sing. He’d rather watch a movie. I love to read. He’d rather watch a movie. I love to…well, you probably get the picture. We have little in common! As the band started to play music from the appropriate time of our graduation, I noticed several women going to the dance floor, without partners. I jumped up, ready to dance – with the girls. Before I realized it, I was dancing every dance…all of us girls lined up, dancing the Electric Slide, and other fast tunes. After all, in high school, isn’t that what girls do? We don’t care if the guys don’t dance. They can sit on the sidelines and be bored!
The talent show for the reunion was scheduled between band breaks. I’m pleased to say, I sang four songs at the class reunion. Only scheduled for two, but when other classmates heard me sing, they wanted more. Not willing to disappoint them, my husband queue up the music and I sang. At first, while standing on the stage, my legs felt like spaghetti. My heart fluttered. Emotions from my shattered childhood were rising to the surface. I inhaled. Exhaled. The memories locked away, I focused. Accustomed to singing on stage, I told myself to concentrate…”You can do this,” I repeated, as I belted out “At Last;” “Georgia On My Mind;” “Sweet Nothings;” and “I Who Have Nothing.”
My husband said the crowd roared with delight with each song, but I could not hear them. As a true and professional singer, I was focused on the voice, my movements, the notes and stage presence. I do know the classmates appeared to enjoy my performance. For me, it was so rewarding to sing to them, to realize that bad memories from a shattered childhood were finally leading me to become the woman I am today. My class reunion helped me to bury the past and to realize that one can go home again and enjoy the visit.
No doubt I will return for the next reunion. After all, these people were classmates…we were bonded with memories from the developing years of high school, stepping into the future of the life we dreamed of, some lived it, some passed away, and those of us who are left must cling to each other so we can reminisce and rebuild our relationships – together – as classmates!

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