9/05/2006

20 Years

I hope everyone had a nice long weekend to relax. I spent part of my weekend attending my 20 year high school reunion. At first I was reluctant to go because what could I possibly gain from going back to a place where so much pain was endured? It's not that the actual experience of high school was painful, it's the moments that went along with it. Some would look at my high school year book and think I had it good...there are pictures of me on the cheerleading squad, pictures of me at prom, pictures of me with my 'football player' boyfriend - but as we all know looks can be deceiving. Sure I had a lot of friends, I had boys that liked me or thought I was hot, but I also had an alcoholic father, a mother that had to travel for her job so she was absent for most of the important moments, a brother that tried to escape our reality by joining the Navy. I was for the most part - alone. But despite all the painful memories, I decided to go back to the place where so many moments defined who I was going to be for the rest of my life. Back to be with the people that stood there beside me sometimes noticing the sadness behind my smile but most times looking past it.

As I walked into the reunion my heart began to race. I clutched my husband's hand tighter and leaned in towards his shoulder. I needed him to hold me up in case I fell, he knows that sometimes I'm not the 'wonder woman' I play on tv. As we stood in line waiting to check-in I noticed a few familiar faces, faces that had aged just as mine had, faces that carried the wait of their own realities in the laugh lines around their mouths. They handed me a nametag with my senior picture printed on it. My husband laughed at my 80's hairdo and I had to remind him that back then, I was considered 'in style'. As we started to wander around the room I started to feel more comfortable when I noticed a few of the most popular girls and guys now were sporting bellies and receding hairlines. I know it seems kind of cruel to celebrate someone else's misfortune of losing their hair or gaining weight, but there was a sweet justice to it all that I couldn't ignore. Back then, those people thought they were untouchable but time had proved them wrong. We all stand within the reach of time don't we?

I mingled with a few of my old cheerleader buddies and just like back then, I felt out of place. I was always the one to stand out of the crowd, to make friends with the 'outcasts', the unpopular, the kids that no one else noticed. Some of the people I knew back then, were still the same. The same sour expressions still decorated their faces and I could tell that they hadn't figured it out yet - none of us are more special than anyone else. Part of me was relieved that I wasn't the same, I've traveled miles past that scared mixed up teenager that adorned those hallways. But part of me wishes that something remained, something that still resembled innocence, but life has a way of beating that out of you.

After making the rounds I finally saw the one person I'd actually come to this reunion for, my best friend. We'd lost touch many years ago when I moved to Chicago and part of her held resentment towards me for leaving her. But as we stood there looking at each other all that remained was the love we'd once felt. She was the sister I'd never had, I was the friend she always needed. She was one of those outcasts, the people no one noticed - but I noticed her. We talked for hours and I know that I will try my damnedest never to lose touch again.

As my husband and I got up to leave someone grabbed my arm, spun me around and kissed me on the cheek. As I looked up I saw the very first boy I'd ever kissed; I was in the 2nd grade. I'm amazed I can still remember hanging upside down from the monkey bars, grabbing a hold of his arms, and demanding he kiss me. He obeyed of course after all I was still wonder woman back then. We laughed as we reminisced about old times and he told me something I'll never forget. He said, "you're eyes are still the same, full of sadness yet softened by their hope for change." At first I wasn't sure what he meant and then I remembered he was the one and only classmate that ever saw my father intoxicated. My father came to pick me up from a school function 2 hours late and Joey waited with me on the playground until my father finally showed up. As my dad stumbled from the truck I remember my face burning with shame at the thought of someone else discovering my secret. Joey grabbed my hand as my father called out to me, "I'll never tell," he said. You know what? He never did tell and neither did I.

20 years out of high school is a long time but I discovered that no matter how many years pass between what was and what is, there are some things that remain the same. I never used to be grateful for that.

9 Comments:

  1. keda said...
    great that you braved it!

    i don't think i would. luckily none of my old lot or the school are anywhere near bothered enough to well... bother with that kind of organization.

    but living abroad is always a good excuse if they do.
    k o w said...
    It's been 11 years for me. Just ran into one of my old classmates who's been a struggling actor in NY for the past 7 years. Amazing the different routes we all take.
    Tab said...
    twenty years...funny how time flies..
    good thing the big hair fads are long gone now..lol Thanks for sharing!
    lash505 said...
    If we could just have some of that time back, what a bigger differnce we could make.
    wdky said...
    Loved that post... and isn't it a surreal expereince to do that? I met my old friends from school about a year ago, and we just had the best time ever. It was like we last saw each other the day before, and not 25 years ago.
    check said...
    your post just made me feel warm and fuzzy inside...
    Gwen said...
    I am out 20yrs too. I don't think my class put anything together ~ yet. I have to run to make da coffee but I will be back to read the rest of this post.
    Gwen said...
    Wow. I hope I can get the courage if one comes up for me. I skipped my ten year because I had just had my son. Yes, shallow as it is I would not go back with all that baby fat all over me. That was great writing and what details. I guess certain details do stick with us. Thanks for sharing this experience with us.
    G~
    Caterpillar said...
    NWC, there was something about this post, well so many things - throughout reading it I had a big lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I think first for you facing this and holding your husband's hand and not being afraid to be You with him, also for the lost innocence, for how we all change and we can't stop time, for how people can seem to be one way while being completely different inside, for the sadness you had behind your smile that no one really noticed or wanted to notice. Except for sweet Joey seeing it in your eyes.

    Another big lump came when you talked about your best friend, and I'm so happy for you both that you reconnected. And then Joey - oh that lump is huge when I even now reread that paragraph, and tears of sadness and sweetness and wanting to go hug that little Joey who knew instantly your feelings, grabbed your hand and told you just what you needed to hear at that moment, and then kept his promise - I wish I could hug little him and also hug little you then and somehow make it all right for you. I'm so happy that he stopped you before you left - and what an amazing person also to have noticed your eyes back then and still now. You've touched me so much, thank you for sharing this!

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