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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: February 7, 2019

The Women of ඒ

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

I graduated from Peshtigo High School in 1974. I think we had the largest graduating class ever at that time, with 109 seniors. Since then, we've scattered to the four winds both physically and philosophically. We are fortunate to have a powerhouse organizer, Robin, to keep us gathering for reunions every 5 years, but many, for various reasons, don't attend. Some of the classmates have passed away, some are thousands of miles away, and some are still in warm regular contact with each other. A few have become a cipher, with no one really knowing where they are or how they are doing.

Social media has allowed many of us to reconnect, re-establishing ties despite physical distances and allowing us to share the normal ups and downs of life. And it was using social media as an organizing tool that allowed 20 "women of 74" to reconnect and gather in the valley area for lunch recently.

First of all, this is a hardy group. Temperatures were below zero with the threat of a major snowstorm to come later in the day. Nonetheless they came, from Central Wisconsin, from around the valley, from Peshtigo and Marinette and one hardy soul from Dunbar. We gathered around one large table, and the talking and laughing went on for hours.

Women of 60+ are vastly different, in many good ways, from women of 18 years. We may not be as fresh and pretty, but we all agreed that on the whole, we are one good-looking bunch. And no, we weren't being sarcastic. Your ideas of beauty change as you age, and besides, your behavior says a lot about your age. This group is very active " some still working, many volunteering for a variety of good causes, chasing after grandchildren, traveling and helping aging parents (you know, the REALLY old people.)

Instead of sitting with the people we felt most comfortable with, we changed seats mid-visit to make sure everyone got a chance to visit. (Thanks, Lori!) Even with that, and about 2 l/2 hours of visiting time, it was much too short.

Most of the conversation was personal. How are Mom/Dad? How many grandchildren? Dogs, cats or both? How is your health? Because we came from a small town, we knew each other's siblings well. Sisters and brothers were inquired after, and warm greetings sent to them. There were a few high school stories told but not many " really, women of our age love memories but we are firmly focused on the present. Let's chat about where we are right now, what makes us happiest, who are the important people in our lives.

What was noticeably absent was gossip. When people not present were talked about, it was mostly in the spirit of inquiring if anyone was in touch with them or had any knowledge of how they were. A moment of true sorrow fell over the group when we found out one of our classmates had passed away two years ago and few of us were aware of it. This was the reminder that life is short, and unpredictable " and the sadness of not being able to send a card or offer a personal prayer at the time of the death fell over us. It reinforced, for me at least, the value of the gathering, hugging not only old friends but building a bridge to one woman I never knew particularly well.

We focused on the essence of what is important. I heard no political talk, nor did I expect any. We know we all have different perspectives and you know what? That's okay. Those differences would not be allowed to intrude on this joyful gathering. I found every woman there interesting, and could easily have spent many more hours enjoying their company.

Ladies of '74 who did not attend and live in the area " please join us at the class reunion this summer, OR, if big gatherings aren't comfortable for you, keep in touch with us and join us when we have lunch again. Because we certainly will do this again. And you were remembered, asked about, and missed. You are important and a part of this whole, too. It's a small town thing and that's what we are blessed to be, Peshtigo small town girls, just a few decades later.



You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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