Note: Ok, yes, there are two posts today. My mind is swirling and writing is the way to clear that… So, it’s your choice: Read both, read one, don’t read any… but you are reading this, so read on. The point of this is to work on my writing and get it out there. Thanks for tuning in.
So, one week from today, it will all be over. I’ll probably be nursing a hang over, and wondering what I worried about in the first place. For several months now I’ve been anticipating my upcoming 30th high school reunion. Just the words 30th reunion make me feel OLD! When the organizers of this reunion started a 1981 Scituate High reunion page, it seemed like a good idea. However, as the date fast approaches I feel a growing anxiety that I had not anticipated, when I first heard about the reunion. That FB page has been the source of anxiety, humor and all kinds of emotions in between.
For starters: I have not really kept in touch with many people from my graduating class. My high school years were not that ideal, and when I left Scituate after graduation, I left for good. There were certainly some classic hallmarks: first love (dated him for 3 years, and then had my heart broken); didn’t make cheerleading (did try out), but belonged to the Boosters; participated in school plays and shows; did ok academically (not the top 10% but not the bottom either); had friends; tried sports (track and basketball… I didn’t really shine in either); and had lots of those classic experiences and moments that make high school, well, high school. There wasn’t a John Hughes movie made in the high school genre that I couldn’t relate to. No wonder my life has a soundtrack, and not surprising I signed up to put together a mix for our reunion.
But, my four years of high school were also some of my hardest years. My family had a lot of issues and I felt like I was constantly trying to fit in and make an a-typical home life look normal to the rest of my world: high school aged teens. I didn’t have the insights I have now; I didn’t realize that lots of other families were not as typical as I thought they were. At that time, just the fact that my mother was single stood out in my mind. In a community that had more than its share of Irish Catholic families, having a mother who went out for drinks and wasn’t always home, seemed extreme and awkward to explain. My father had been killed when I was in 4th grade and in addition to being an obvious trauma for my siblings and I, it was one more thing that marked us as odd kids out. There were no grief groups then, we didn’t know other kids who’d lost a parent. It was a silent grief.
I was the other parent at home. I was the mom, while our mother took on the role of dad. I didn’t hang out after school or go to parties much, because I had siblings to take care of, dinners to think about, a house to clean. I didn’t get a lot of things with kids my age, so I often felt myself watching the sidelines. I wasn’t that shy kid who no one noticed, I guess I just was afraid to be noticed for the wrong reasons… and it held me back from a lot of fun and h.s. rituals that I could have been experiencing with my classmates. When my mom (along with my siblings) announced, during my Jr year, that she was moving to Florida I knew it was my chance to break out. So I stayed.
This in itself changed my entire life and probably saved it… on so many levels… but it also marked my life as that much more different than my classmates’. I didn’t know anyone else who was living without their family, paying rent and trying to make ends meet. I lived with a family who ran a local Montessori school for a while, and then ended up with my boy friend’s family (he’d gone off to college by my sr. year) and later spent a summer with my grandmother, one town over. It was far outside the norms of most of my friends and I felt isolated and stressed, trying to make it all fit and look normal. I wore the same preppy sweaters and chinos, but I was always worried that the awkward differences would show through. I’ve told my kids, applying to college was a total crap shoot (no on in my family had ever gone and no one was around to help me) and I took buses for interviews and made my own way. Again, learned a lot and it made me a much more independent, strong person… but tough at 17, when classmates were doing those things with their parents.
So, when I left, again, I left. There were a few close friends that I stayed in touch with, and there have a been a few that I reconnected with over the years. Facebook and email has made all of that so much easier. But when the reunion page started and one or two friends urged me to come, I didn’t really think it all through. I said yes and then, I guess I figured maybe I’d go and maybe I wouldn’t. As the posts multiplied, I began to have some doubts. As groups I had not been a part of recounted the many parties I’d missed or the myriad of adventures I’d not experienced then, I felt increasingly weird. It was like stepping right back in to that period of time and struggling with all the old insecurities and strange feelings, that I thought I’d purged in the years since. Freaked me out for a little while.
The years seemed to suddenly jump up and chide me when I looked in the mirror or read the jokes from other classmates about spanks and botox. Hell, the lines are multiplying by the week it seems and I am 30 lbs bigger than the skinny girl who graduated in 1981, thinking she still could be thinner. Like anyone, I still have some insecurities, but there’s nothing like a reunion to bring a whole pile more to the surface. Seeing all those pictures of my classmates from our graduations parties, homecoming, parties and events and class photos made all those years seem fresh again. I can’t imagine seeing some of these people in their actual (going on 50) bodies and faces, any more than I can believe what greets me in the mirror. The guy I had a crush on looks nothing like that boy, and he could say the same of me and hit it that nail square on the head.
Fine, fine… yea I can hear the groans. I would agree, I like me a whole lot better now than I did then. I look ok in most of my wrinkles and while I would certainly like to lose some of those pounds, I’m not willing to give up Cool coffee creams, hot tamales, haggen daz ice cream ( the list is a blog in itself), vodka tonics, or much of anything else to have that figure again. I like who I’ve become, most days, and I get the things I didn’t get then…
BUT, as the date speeds up on me, and I try to imagine meeting all these strangers, who I once knew and who filled my daily life with drama, color, fun and pathos, I feel a bit like I did when I’d get dressed for a dance back then and just hope that ….. noticed me, or asked me to dance. When I hoped that ….. would hang out next to me and not desert me to hang out with ….. when I hoped that I didn’t look like a dork or make a stupid mistake. I would love to walk in to a plastic surgeon’s office and hide all the evidence that life has gone on and wreaked havoc with the structure of my face and contours of my body. I don’t want any discomfort or bad outcomes. I want a magic wand that would fix it all, but let me maintain the virtues I used to hold dear: just age gracefully and be happy with what you have. (I always said that, not sure if I ever got it down… but, damn! I said it)
This week I’ll fly back east and visit a town that is now filled with ghosts. My grandmother died years ago from Huntingtons Disease, my mother is fading away now (and never returned after moving to Florida), my family is all spread out, my two besties from that time period are not coming and have moved away (and their parents, who became my surrogates, are gone too), and I really know very few people. I have forged new friendships with some of my classmates, as we’ve chatted about the reunion and old times. That is something that is fun to think about: new high school friends, who I didn’t get the chance or take the time to know then. Seeing the friends who I have maintained some contact with brings a warm fuzzy.
But as some of my friends here can attest to (’cause some of you have been pulling me back from the ledge for months!) it will be nice when I am no longer anticipating this event (cue the clack clack clack of roller coaster car going up the first hill), second guessing my looks, my success, my ability to chug a beer, no longer looking up plastic surgery procedures and I can just hold tight to the bar (cue the zipping car speeding in to the first turn), disembark on the other end, and say: again, again!
Been there? Done that? If you’ve been to your reunion and can share some insights, share a comment. If you liked this post, please hit the Like button below, or pass it on, with Share button.