Monday, November 2, 2009

40th HS Reunion Weekend

Chapter 3 - The Main Event

We weren't due there til 1pm. It was drizzling on and off all morning, so our semi-formed plan to stroll the streets was put on hold. That was fine; I was still sleeping off jet-lag and the conversation at breakfast was keeping me interested. I hadn't been after-school-socializing-friends with the other early morning eaters at The Park South, but it didn't seem to matter. Career paths, marital woes, demented parents - there was sharing and supporting and commiserating and resource swapping and lots of rueful laughter. Offspring and spouses were mentioned only in passing - this was our reunion, not theirs, after all.

Some had gone out to Long Island the day before, and there were on-the-scene reports of the condition of their old houses and the high school and the now-defunct Rainbow Diner. The Rainbow Diner - scene of every Friday and Saturday night late night it's almost but not quite time to go home gathering from 9th grade through college. One of those real New York Greek diners with the 10 page menu offering everything except Chinese food. Brusque waitresses, endlessly refillable Cokes, french fries falling off a too small flat plate - just the name brought it right up to my taste buds. Now it's called Mitchell's and the waitresses were nicer but I didn't travel with them so my memory is still intact.

We lingered over breakfast, read the New York Times and MTF critiqued my clothes til I got it right and we took a cab uptown with Lovely Linda.

We were early, but we weren't first. Reunions-Unlimited, the less than helpful professionals who'd been engaged to organize the event, were, once again, less than helpful in distributing name tags or moving people away from the doorway and into the larger spaces beyond or announcing that the food had been presented or was being taken away or any of the things one would expect from party planners. They were VERY good at insisiting that we besmirch our outfits with their adhesive-backed labels, though. Apparently, crashing reunions is a common occurrence and R-U was protecting their turf. (At $115 a head, they were clearly raking in the rewards. We're still trying to figure out where they could have spent the money.... the food was good, but $115 for lunch??????? And I could have made their 200 labels for $12 and 1/8th of an ink cartridge on my home printer.) But our hostess-with-the-mostest, who'd been coordinating the event from her home once it became clear that R-U had an email list and not much else, was on top of everything.

We had white card-stock nametags with our senior pictures and our high school names printed in big, bold letters which hung from blue ribbons around our necks. Blue and White - our school colors. She hadn't missed a thing.
There was an open bar and buffets upstairs and down and lots of loud talking. Brief attempts at welcoming and speechifying and background music were overshadowed by the hugging and looking and laughing. The name tags were awkward at first; there were lots of failed and funny attempts to identify older, greyer classmates. After a while, all shame was lost. Necks were craned and pictures were scanned and OMG was the catch-phrase of the day.

OMG is that YOU??? OMG you look exactly the same!!!! OMG you two are married???

I captured two long-lost friends and we grabbed plates and a table in the corner downstairs and dove right into the past. Moving from NY to Chicago to Marin to Tucson has given me many groups of friends, but no one who shares my past. My friends know my parents and siblings through my stories, not their own recollections. For a while there in the basement of a restaurant on 3rd Avenue, I was back home on Long Island, surrounded by people who knew me. Really knew me. They understood that Daddooooo was obnoxious but had his virtues, that G'ma ran the PTA, that my younger brother and sister had done this and that and went here and there and I didn't have to explain anything to anyone. They got it all. We hadn't exchanged a word in 4 decades, but it didn't matter. We knew each other, and it felt great.

After that, I spent a lot of time watching. Sitting alone on a bar stool. Leaning against the side wall, framing a photo. Waiting for a drink, and then standing there as the condensation made a lovely watermark on the counter. No rush to rejoin my friends or insert myself into a group. I was comfortable just watching:

Good cheekbones are still good cheekbones - he's as handsome as he was in 1969.

Standing in one place and letting devotees flock to your side - he's conquered that Master of the Universe vibe just perfectly.

She's sitting all by herself even though she's surrounded by conversation - she still hasn't learned to mingle.

How comfortable they are together, after all these years - they tease each other just the way they did when we were 17.

Adorable is still adorable - no one looks or sounds or dresses like she does.

When was the last time I was in a room with so many women who don't color their hair? I'm usually the only one.

Look at how happy everyone is.

In high school, there was no way that being alone at a party was acceptable behavior. It denoted outcast loser friendless one. Last Saturday afternoon, though, I didn't care. I was content to observe. And that was when it happened - when I knew that I'd grown up and moved on. Read and enjoy......

I looked up and there was one of high school's Really Scary Girls. She was standing, right in front of me. Before I could begin to smile and say "Hi" (not that she'd know who I was or remember that I'd existed in her universe but it was Reunion and I was in the mood to re-une) she began to survey me. You know just what I mean.... her eyes started at my damp-from-the-overheated-room coiffure and took in my necklace, my sweater, my pants and my boots and her rolling eyes dismissed them all.

Surprisingly (to me, at least), I wasn't intimidated. I was annoyed. Here I sat, feeling love towards everyone everywhere. Who was she to interject this pettiness? What in the world made her think that I cared, for one tiny moment, what she thought of how I looked?

And then..... right there .... I gave it back to her. Looked her up and down, shrugged my shoulders, made a little "pfffttt" with my glossed lips, shook my head and walked away.

It was mean. It was nasty. It was sooooooooooooooo high school.
And it felt really really really good.

1 comment:

  1. Yours is the second "40th High School Reunion" blog post that I have read in the past 6 months. It's been fun as MY 40th reunion WOULD have been this past summer if my class did reunions. We don't. We were a small school (99 graduates); we were all about relevancy (which a reunion really isn't); many of our classmates died in the Viet Nam war (which we all opposed); or died of drug and alcohol overdoses (which we seemed to turn a blind eye to in high school).

    So, reading yours, and another online friend's, observations (and she posted pictures) sort of took me to what my reunion might have been like had there been one. Thanks.


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