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Friday, July 13, 2007

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That was then, this is now



My twentieth high school reunion would have been this summer. I say "would have," because unless great pains have been taken to hide it from me, nobody cared enough to pull it together. Or people cared, but everybody hoped someone else would step up. It's like a Generation X joke:
Question: How many Gen Xers does it take to overcome their collective apathy and stage a high school reunion?

Answer: Whatever.

Most people who went to school with me might be surprised to learn that I am disappointed it didn't happen. Not exactly crushed, but mildly bummed. I would have totally gone. Sorry, the satellite radio in the cafe I am writing from is synchronistically tuned to the eighties station (hey, Depeche Mode!) and it is going to be hard to keep from sounding like Molly Ringwald here, although I was more Ally Sheedy, if you know what I mean.

Is there anyone for whom high school comprised the best years of their lives? I hope not. How sad and awful that would be, even for the Mollys and Emilios. When I look back on that time, it's like watching children playing in bombed out buildings on tv. It is a kind of testament to youthful resilience that good times can happen amid all the wreckage.

At least, that was my experience. My teen years were my Beirut and Belfast. The house I grew up in burned down the year I was fifteen, my Dad was not in a good place, my mother was trying to dig a path through the rubble with my little sister in her arms. My family was crumbling, falling apart. School was no shelter. Just another mine field to be navigated.

In between dodging all the bits of falling sky, however, I had some wonderful times. By my senior year, I had become adept at evading mean girls, concerned adults, and about a third of my classes. I began seeing a twenty-six year old bartender, and I pretty much lived at his place. But when I wasn't hanging around nightclubs with people ten years older than me, I was doing a lot of the normal teenage things: goofing off with my girlfriends, hanging out at the mall, making tissue paper flowers for senior prom.

It wasn't Sweet Valley High, but it had its moments.

I remember attending a house party around graduation time, all of us dancing on the carpet to John Mellencamp's song, "Jack and Diane."
Hold on to 16 just as long as you can.
Big changes coming round real soon
make us women and men.

At seventeen, I wasn't the slightest bit interested in hanging onto any age that ended with the letters T-E-E-N. But I felt the truth of the line about big changes, even in my jaded youth, even in the middle of that cynical decade. I remember having an acute awareness that we had just come through something together and were now on the cusp of everything that would come after. There are moments in the reel of life that are captured in freeze-frame, and this is one of mine.

Reunion is the wrong word for a bunch of people who were never really united in the first place, except by circumstance. I wouldn't go back to that fractious time for anything. But I would like to see everyone, just once. The cool kids, the stoners, the jocks, the geeks, even the mean girls. Because whether I liked them or not, whether they liked me or not, whether we would find anything to say to each another past one night's worth of reminiscing over the punch bowl, we were all in it together, doing the best we could with whatever hand we'd been dealt.

It was what it was, and I don't feel a need to go back and fix it. I don't want to get even. I don't necessarily want to stay in touch. I don't care to compare hip measurements or salaries or our kids' I.Q. scores. I'd like just one more roll call. To know that everyone made it out okay; that we were all able to let go of those years and become women and men.

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6 Comments:

Blogger Minivan Bohemian said...

You are such a gifted writer. I look forward to stealing a little time away from the kiddos and reading your blog. Thanks for reminding us that we weren't really in the brat pack!

3:04 PM  
Blogger Charlotte said...

I missed my 20th school reunion last year in South Africa, because I live in Germany and it would have cost a lot to fly out for a lunch. But I would have liked to have gone for just that reason: to see them and how they have become women (I was at an all-girls' school).

4:35 PM  
Blogger bluebird of paradise said...

oh you should so organize one. even an unorganized one. if you build they will come............

7:43 AM  
Blogger littlepurplecow said...

Loved your Gen X joke. Class of 87 rocks on.

10:23 PM  
Blogger jen lemen said...

so glad i missed mine. going to my tenth nearly put me under. i'm not sure what i like about this post more--the 80's hair or the sears baby book on the top shelf. rock on, dr. sears.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

I graduated in 1985 and my class did finally have a reunion at 20 years (it was our first). I'm glad we had it and I'm glad I went. Actually, not only did I go, I took part in putting it together because I knew it wasn't going to happen unless someone made it happen. It was interesting, in a good way. There was no pettiness, no car/salary/kid/figure comparisons. I say try for 25 years.

8:59 PM  

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