The every-five-year, all-class reunion of Wilcox (Neb.), now Wilcox-Hildreth, High School was Saturday night at the Kearney Holiday Inn. It has been quite a few reunions since anyone thought it was a good idea to cater a banquet in the small, hot high school gym in the middle of June.

Some things about this reunion were the same as always, including that too many “locals,” graduates who still live in and around Wilcox, didn’t come. I know they think they see each other all of the time, but I always feel bad for the alumni who came home from afar expecting to see more familiar faces around their tables.

The great thing about an all-class reunion for a small community like my hometown is that you get to see people from other classes, church, 4-H and many other activities.

There were about 300 K-12 students at Wilcox when I graduated in 1974, which would be a small senior class in most big city schools, even Kearney. I started kindergarten in a class of 11 and graduated in a class of 17, including six of us who had gone all the way through together.

Because there were only five girls in my class, including my twin sister, some of my best friends were in the class just behind me. One, who had lived most of her adult life in Lincoln, found love a second time around a few years ago and moved to Red Oak, Iowa, was at the banquet Saturday.

I enjoyed my visit with Sheryl and many other friends. It still is strange to see them as adults and hear them talk about grandchildren and retirement plans. Yes, I did have to check some name tags to know who was walking toward me for a visit.

Once the reintroductions were made, we fell into conversations and told stories as if we were all teenagers again enjoying the rich full life of high school in a small town. We may not have appreciated those times then, but I’m sure there isn’t a one of us who would not pay for the privilege of going back for just one day.

The guest speaker was Larry Jensen, a longtime and much-loved math teacher at WHS in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He mostly told stories, without naming names so that it would spark a memory for some people without embarrassing anyone in public.

His wife also was a Wilcox teacher. They met when she came to do her student teaching. They went to all the school activities, some as sponsors, and Mr. Jensen – can’t call him Larry – drove a school bus route.

They have four children, all born after they moved to a larger Nebraska town to teach and for Mr. Jensen to work as a school administrator. One of the best things he said Saturday was they didn’t start a family sooner because all of the Wilcox kids seemed like their kids.

It is amazing how such important times in our lives keep us forever tied to people we may have only known for a few years as youngsters. A reunion is a time to catch up and reminisce, of course, but for one evening, it makes it feel as though our special time together was yesterday.

NFPW conferences also have those qualities. Our time together once a year doesn’t allow us to know all about each other, even though friendships have been forged that keep some members from different states in constant contact throughout the years.

Our relationships are as professional communicators who have shared some of our experiences, knowledge, highlights and heartaches. It’s wonderful how quickly we fall into that relationship and into friendships at the annual conferences. And also how quickly many first-timers become a part of that tradition.

I tell people I don’t care much for reunions, but there are two major exceptions. It would take extreme circumstances for me to miss a Wilcox High School Alumni Banquet or an NFPW annual conference, which is why I hope to see you in Anchorage this September.