Sunday, July 17, 2011
Reunited, and it feels so good...until the next day.
I knew it would be, mostly because we've had three of them now, but the excitement still couldn't mask those groundless pangs of anxiety and apprehension.
My thirty-year reunion.
I tried to hedge as many uncertainties as possible:
The hair was cut three weeks ago. Any sooner and it wouldn't have grown out enough to ensure strategic comb-overs. Any earlier than three weeks prior would have assured a halo of platinum neck fuzz poking its eaglet talons from below the back collar into the sensitive skin below the back neckline, forming a distracting silver and red constellation of dermal abrasion.
I bought a new shirt. It matched my sideburns, which wasn't planned, it just worked out that way. The black shirt with thin silver stripes was embarking on its maiden voyage, which, in retrospect, wasn't a good idea. I felt like the kid who shows up back from spring break in white Chuck Taylors right out of the box. Opting to wear a t-shirt underneath to avoid looking like Phyllis Diller's head was bursting out of my chest Alien-style was a solid choice.
New earrings. Good idea, but again, too sparkly. Unfortunately, I had to choose between some brand new bling and some blackened old hoops with more embedded dead skin tissue than Ted Bundy's Volkswagen.
Enough is enough, I thought. These are people with whom I share angst- and humor-filled memories of growing up together during the Sixties and Seventies, and accordingly that puts them at roughly my age. Wow, go figure. Stop stressing about a little less hair and considerably more belly fat and prostate tissue and enjoy yourself.
During the months leading to this soiree, the location had endured endless, light-hearted ribbings. It wouldn't be held at a Casino, a racetrack or a hotel banquet facility—it took place at the Auburn Senior Center.
Electric scooter and nap jokes abounded, but I didn't hear many complaints about saving enough money by staging the event at the former Auburn Public Library to sap the local Costco of its entire supply butterscotch pudding and Ensure.
It was a little strange sipping an ESB in the former children's book section, but, whatever.
Upon arriving, any nervousness evaporated as soon as I hugged someone, and then someone else, and then someone else. The evening's essence quickly materialized in the form of warm, lasting squeezes as opposed to the more accepted and distancing "pat-pat" hugs.
I was further comforted that some things haven't changed at all between once-a-decade encounters. Here's an example of a guy with whom I've spoken at each reunion:
1991—Male classmate, extracting his wallet from his back pocket and flipping it open to reveal a photograph of his son—"Yeah, that's him. He's a year old and he's totally kicking my ass."
2001—Male classmate, extracting his cell phone from his back pocket and flipping it open to reveal a photograph of his son—"Yeah, that's him. He's eleven and he's totally kicking my ass."
2011—Male classmate, extracting his iPhone from his back pocket and displaying a photograph of his son—"Yeah, that's him. He's twenty-one and he's totally kicking my ass."
Early in the evening, I had volunteered to share my hotel room with a good friend so he wouldn't have to drive back to Seattle. Much later in the evening, I caught myself saying to him, "So, when do you think would be a good time to head back to our room?"
"Our room?" he asked.
Yeah, that was a weird way of putting it. We laughed pretty hard at that one, and the next time I just said, "Ready to head back?"
Events like this tend to move at warp speed. They're so fun that they commence in inverse proportion to happenings like accounting classes and root canals. Before I knew it, the sky was lightening and I had been hanging with my classmates for eleven hours.
I realize a lot of people would actually rather go to the dentist than attend a reunion. But give it a shot, and here's why:
A small group of folks exists which saw you leave for the summer sounding like Bobby Brady only to return two months later, an inch taller and sounding like Greg.
This tiny assembly of people contains human beings who were the first to make your heart bounce out of its ribcage. You couldn't yet label these feelings; you could merely chase that person to the swing set and after catching her, stand dumbfounded and glazy-eyed.
Most of us live our lives immersed in other generations' cultures—our children's, our co-workers, sometimes even our grandchildren's.
Well, this was our night. This pod of individuals who originally met as boys and girls and graduated as teenagers assembled as middle-aged men and women on Friday night.
And quite a bit of Saturday morning.