Welcome to the beginning of chapter three of my blog-to-book project: Life After High School: Secrets To A Successful Life By Those Who Have Had Twenty Years To Think About It (or) What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. In this riveting episode, we return to present day and explore the harrowing events of my twenty-year high school reunion itself. If you missed the last post, click here, otherwise, you can start at the beginning here.
Although this may fly in the face of certain conventional wisdom, I don’t think it is a good idea to bring your spouse to your high school reunion. Sure, everyone hopes to impress their friends with their hot arm candy, and everyone thinks that it will be fun for all these total strangers to get to know each other on a deeply personal level in an hour or so over extremely loud music. Let’s get our head out of the puffy clouds for a second and stare reality in the wrinkled twenty-year-older face.
We thought we had a good plan. Scott’s parents watched his kids at his house on Saturday, and our kids stayed with his younger brother Ryan while we went to the reunion. Then, Scott’s parents would come up on Sunday with his kids and all of our kin would come to the Family day at the beach. It sounded good to us dad’s, and we all know that dads are always omnipotent when it comes to organizing the family outings without a hitch. I mean, the kids really only need one set of clothes and can sleep in our bed and can eat when we get back home, right?
The minute we arrived at the reunion event on Saturday night, I felt the nostalgia hit head on and was simultaneously excited and horrified. I was excited about the trip down memory lane and horrified about looking stupid for a variety of reasons, among them forgetting people’s names, and not having accomplished anything noteworthy since I saw them last.
It didn’t take me long to figure out I had a worse problem to contend with. I wondered why my wife wasn’t proudly standing next to me to greet each and every passerby like newlyweds greeting the guests at their reception. There she was, standing, and later sitting, alone with Scott’s wife off in some corner. Luckily, they were enjoying each other’s company.
I am not always the sharpest tack in the shed, so I decided to bring these facts to her attention as if she hadn’t noticed. She replied very matter-of-factly: “You all need to reconnect, and we are simply in the way.” I made a feeble attempt at arguing with her, which turned into a quick and wimpy resignation. If you have met my wife, you know how successful arguing with her is. Besides, she was right. They felt completely out-of-place and it was totally justified.
If you think about what these reunions are really for, they are absolutely centered on the emotional connection of relationships that span across time. This is such a personal experience, that there is no way someone outside of that continuum is ever going to feel like they can even relate, much less belong. The subjects of the reunion would not be there if they didn’t want to share or at least be around the sharing of the interesting collision of past and present. In fact, even introducing a spouse got in the way of the catching up, which needed to be done in pretty rapid succession if one was interested in doing so with more than one person. After all, it had been ten years since the last reunion, and some had not spoken at that one, so for many, it had been a full twenty years. That’s a lot of years to catch up on, and if you are stuck at the introduction and small-talk phase, you can’t really get to anything meaningful.
Not that people necessarily want to get deep anyway. Most people have become strangers again at this point, which makes some people uncomfortable with the entire scenario. Yet that’s nothing alcohol can’t fix, which I noticed loosened the tongues of even the most bashful and conservative among us. For me, I am not a drinker, and I don’t need to be anyway since I loved the engagements and could have talked for hours with any one person. I am fascinated with what people had done (or didn’t do) with their lives. For me, the choices and decisions and wisdom gleaned over time is one of the most interesting subjects on the planet, and you don’t need to be a celebrity to have an interesting story.
It quickly became obvious to me that our wives could have stayed home, and probably would have had a better time just hanging out with each other anyway. You may not be in the same situation or have the same type of spouse, but I still recommend you just leave them at home and save them the misery of trying to force a conversation with a complete and total stranger that they don’t have anything in common with. Besides, you will save money by going stag and pretend you are still in high school while you cruise about the room. It is after all, nearly impossible not to adopt at least a little of that old immature energy when you are surrounded by the familiar nostalgia, and your spouse probably doesn’t even want to see that (unless they like making fun of you).
Meandering about the room like a lost puppy, I bumped into Matt Brown who told his story about how he loved his job as a teacher helping inner city kids in the worst areas in California. It was his way of making a difference and he sounded pretty darn happy. I had a quick catch up with a few others and even caught up with Kim Griffin, who was working on a book and had spent many years working as the assistant to Steven Spielberg, which made her cool in my book, even if she doesn’t do another thing with her life. She came with TJ Fantini, who was in a class behind ours, but who was a part of my journey nonetheless. We had a fascinating conversation about Hollywood and the acting world. He had found himself back in town doing some wonderful work with kids teaching acting, along with some other great projects. Some people had never left town and some had traveled the world. One amazing woman (Kelli Johnson, who I am not sure if I can say much more about in fear of secret agents visiting my home) had become a pilot, and then later became a part of the CIA working to protect our country from some very dangerous people and predicaments. The stories were amazing!
After eating, we all gathered for a fantastic video put together by Jesse Schenk. He used some of the footage that Kim Griffin had shot for her senior project. She was the first to put together a Senior Video, back in the days that it was actually a challenge just to gather the necessary technology to pull it off, saying nothing of time, effort, and talent. She did a fine job, and Jesse sampled it well in a collage of experiences from our past juxtaposed with a slide show of the present and music videos from the period. We even got to see some of the hilarious movies that Eric Pope had been in as a barbarian. We had plenty of talent in the class of 1996, and I haven’t even mentioned a fraction of my classmates here.
The reunion was a hit overall. It was at a great barn-wedding facility on Fidalgo Island, complete with local catering and a live band. The food was good, and the band was great. Truth be told, the event could have done without the live music, only because it was very loud and geared for dancing and partying. Now, that is great, except that most people really wanted to talk and that is hard to do with blaring music. No one was there to dance, and so people did leave a bit early. The ones that wanted to continue late into the evening ended up visiting one of their favorite watering holes in town anyway (oh, where would Anacortes young adults be without the Brown Lantern) and partied the night away in a small group, far from the reunion venue.
When the night wrapped up, we headed home to an air mattress on a living room floor that I had not seen in years but loved very much. Sleeping on an air mattress is great when you are a kid or young adult. Now it sounds like a creaking balloon and feels like you are forever getting closer to the ground. Just when you fall asleep, you touch down to the floor and wake back up needing a visit to the chiropractor.
In the next installment of Chapter 3, we get a drive-by interview with Nick Stewart, who keeps it short and sweet.
Are you from Generation X? I want to hear what you think! Please comment below and participate in the conversation about What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. What do you wish someone told you when you were eighteen?
Never miss another nostalgia-filled saccharin sweetness story again! Sing up for the weekly summary email to get reminders.