In contrast to the Mixer I went to but didn’t attend the night before (depressing details available here), I managed to arrive at the Richmond, Texas venue for this multi-class reunion a tad early. I bought a plastic cup of wine, sat myself down at one of the smaller tables—close to the get-your-nametag-here table, and where I could easily see the door—crossed my legs, and waited for one or more of the following events to occur: (a) someone to walk through the door who I recognized (not likely); (b) someone to walk through the door who recognized me (even more not likely); and/or (c) the wine to kick in (a sure thing).
As apprehensive as I was, I managed to sit there, gulp my White Zinfandel, and, with an air nonchalance that any Frenchman would envy, stare fixedly at the door. I was projecting such an air of nonchalance, in fact, that even if Mark Harmon himself were to walk through that door, I would have reacted with the proper dignity and reserve appropriate for any woman my age, especially since there was a clear shot between me and that door, and no shoving, pushing, or tackling would have been necessary for me to get there first—which was a good thing, because I wasn’t dressed for it. In addition, I had the advantage of the element of surprise, since no one else was watching that door like I was.
But, alas, no Mark Harmon. Only normal, ordinary, old people… like me.
Out of the thousands attending from the four graduating classes invited (such observation being based upon the length of the food line), there were only seven people in attendance with whom I graduated in 1970 (christened, just now, by me, and referred to herein forthwith as the “Seven from Seventy”). The rest graduated in ’69, ’71, and ’72, and because no one showed up from ’69, I qualified for a shot at the title of Most Senior Senior. The upside, though, was that all but one of the Seven from Seventy had signed my yearbook, which meant that I might have actually met five of them before now. And, not counting my sister, that just left a mere crowd of people I didn’t know.
I really shouldn’t have worried about connecting or re-connecting…it turned out that the shared experience (or trauma, if you prefer) of high school was enough for me to assume a familiarity with my fellow classmates that I would not have assumed otherwise. I renewed friendships long deemed dead, and made some new ones that, hopefully (or miraculously), will last another forty-one years.
Just one more insightful observation: People there seemed to just pick up where they left off, and I’m thankful I wasn’t grilled about how I spent my last forty-one years. I would have had the devil of a time condensing my life since graduation into a short—albeit fascinating—synopsis.
And that’s assuming, of course, I could remember any of it.
I didn’t go.
Well, actually, it depends on one’s definition of “go.” I climbed into my little rental car with the cool GPS and set my course, like Christopher Columbus and the New World. And, unlike Christopher, I had no trouble finding it.
The bar was located in one of those “town centers” that all small suburbs seem to have nowadays, and I was soon reminded what a disadvantage a car (even with a cool GPS) was in these teeny-weeny places. However, this one had a free, multi-level parking garage, so I pulled in, corkscrewed my way up and parked.
Now, I was born and raised in Colorado, which means my sense of direction is completely and utterly dependent upon the Rocky Mountains, even after forty years gone (give or take)—finding my way out of a parking garage, on foot, is akin to finding my way back to civilization after being spun, blindfolded, and dropped off in the middle of nowhere…all parking garages look the same to me. I got out of my rental car with the cool GPS, and started walking, praying at the same time that I could find it again, especially since I was having a hard time remembering what color it was.
I had the street-smarts to realize that down meant out, and I just happened to spy a stairwell, half-hidden in a corner of the garage. That was the easy part. The hard part was deciding in which direction to turn once I got down to the street. As is my nature, I turned the wrong way, and after walking past the same Mexican food restaurant for the fourth time, I made an adjustment to my heading, and finally got there before my canteen ran out of water.
I walked in and promptly stopped, dead cold. People were crunched together, barely able to move, so mingling seemed out of the question. Worse yet (and this was the kicker), the bar itself—the home of dearly-desired, highly-anticipated Screwdrivers, was totally socked in, like an airport in fog.
Reminiscent of my days as a junior high school wallflower, I hung around outside for a little while and waited for anybody who looked even remotely familiar. I finally, reluctantly, gave up, and headed back to the parking garage. I’m proud to say that I did find my rental car with the cool GPS on the first try, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that God answers prayer.
I just wonder now, looking back, if I should’ve prayed for Vodka and orange juice, too.
I woke up at 4:30 this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up, got myself some coffee, and sat down at the kitchen table, where I flipped through the pages of my senior yearbook for the umpteenth time (it’s a whole like cramming for a test I know I’m going to fail anyway). I’m now sitting in a hotel room in Sugarland, Texas, after a forty-five-minute flight in a metal tube the size of a drain pipe, and in about another forty-five minutes from now, I fully expect to be throwing away (with both hands) all of the personal growth and/or profound wisdom I have managed to accumulate over the past forty-one years.
Suddenly, I’m reminded of that song by Joe Nichols: “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off.”
Lord, please bring me back with all my clothes on…
I’ve got a decision to make. It’s one of those decisions that no matter which way I go—left or right, yes or no—chances are excellent I’ll regret it. I’d like to totally ignore it (as I do everything else I don’t want to deal with, under the impression that whatever it is will just disappear into irrelevancy), but I’d probably regret that, too. It’s a lose-lose-lose proposition in my mind, which means I just can’t win. And, if I can’t win, I may as well surrender – it’s just a matter of choosing the option I’m willing to regret the least for the rest of my days.
The life changing, do-or-die question is this: Should I, or should I not, attend my high school reunion?
Yeah, I know…that’s a toughy.
On the plus side, I wouldn’t have that far to go; it’s a relatively short drive from here compared to, say, Canada. But I wonder if five hours and the cost of a hotel room are worth subjecting myself to the possibility of ridicule, censure and/or total anonymity. What if the only three people who knew my name don’t show up, or worse yet, don’t remember me? What if it was all a nightmare and I just think I graduated…in the bottom half of my class? What if I’m the only person there who’s been divorced? Or failed to finished college? Or doesn’t own an island in the Pacific? What could I possibly have in common with these people, besides an English teacher?
The mature, pragmatic side of me says a lot of people there will be feeling the same way. It tells me that we’re all adults now, with spouses, children, and grandchildren. We’ve all had our tragedies, triumphs, successes and failures. We all look ugly naked. But, the insecure, childish side (really, the more discerning of the two) knows that the moment I hit the door I’ll magically morph into the introverted, socially gawky teenager I used to be, which will not be an attractive sight – I’ll be a 59-year-old girl with big hands, big feet, and acne. I’ll be intimidated all over again by the popular kids, the cheerleaders, the football jocks. I’ll feel left out because I never joined the drill team. Or ran for student council. Or got A’s.
So, I guess it’s just a matter of time, waiting to see which side of my ambivalent personality comes out on top. Of course, if I’m lucky, I’ll still be arguing with myself until it’s too late, which, come to think of it, is the one choice I could live with.
Which smells just like (dare I say it?) a win for both of me!