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Next Time, Bring the Nametags
By Gloria Diaz
Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!
Fort Wayne Reader
I always said I wouldn’t come to any of my high school class reunions unless I had a loaded AK-47 with me, but I wound up going to one a few weeks ago. Meeting up with some former classmates on Facebook made me realize high school was a long time ago, I’ve changed since then, and I didn’t have too much to be ashamed of. Besides, one of my friends from high school was going, so even if the night was a total bust, I’d be able to catch up on what my friend was doing.
I weigh a lot more now than I did in high school, and wanted to lose some weight before going, but my life became stressful beyond belief in the weeks leading up to the event. There was no way I’d end up at my graduation weight by the time of the reunion. I did end up losing a few pounds, but thought, “screw it.” I knew what I was going to wear, and was happy, up to a certain point, with the way I looked. I took off for downtown on what looked to be a wonderful spring Saturday evening. A few seconds after I got downtown, I received a text from my high school friend asking if I was on my way. I was driving, so I pecked out “yes” and hit send. Minutes later, I walked in with Robert and found my friend. Introductions were made. I understood why Karin asked if I was coming. Looking around, I realized I was in the Grand Wayne Center with a bunch of strangers. The reunion committee had forgotten name tags. And we desperately needed them. I had at least one guy introduce himself to me and he was unrecognizable. I’d never spoken to him in high school, but I did recognize his name.
It’s not that we as a group looked bad. On the contrary, we looked good. It’s just that we looked different. There were a handful of people that hadn’t really changed much in the way of looks. They were instantly recognizable. But I had several requests from strange people if they could look at my yearbook, which I decided to bring along at the last minute. It’s a good thing I did. We were like a sports team with a giant roster, only we weren’t wearing jerseys with our names on the back. “Who ARE these people?” I thought. I wasn’t the most popular girl in school, so my fears of getting spitballs thrown at me or nasty remarks were unfounded. I thought my coolness factor would have been increased by having significant cleavage (and I only had to gain 50 pounds to get boobs; cheaper than plastic surgery) and a young man on my arm, but few people seemed to notice.
A guy walked into the room, and my friend and I were curious as to who it was. It was obvious he wasn’t from our class as he was older, but why the hell was he so familiar? Karin and I were thoroughly puzzled when I blurted out my thought: he looked like our principal. And he was. She managed to get a picture with him to show her folks, who thought he was a great guy. The revelation that he used to be our principal and was probably in his 40s when we were teens really made me think about what time does. We measure it on clocks and calendars, but when we look in the mirror, it’s a gradual change, for the most part. We see ourselves every day, so the changes aren’t as radical. Take someone you haven’t seen in years, and they become strangers because you don’t see them in the halls or classrooms every day. You remember them as they used to be, not what they have become.
I did end up seeing a friend I was close with in high school. She shrieked when she saw me and we hugged for a long time. She was with another classmate, and they were so funny and entertaining you’d have thought they were a living, breathing, sitcom.
However different we looked, some things hadn’t changed. The man who accompanied my long-lost friend was chatting with me when he saw someone sitting across from us by herself. He said, “excuse me. She looks bored. I’m going to go over there and entertain her.” I thought that was so cool. Something else that was cool was the opportunity to thank this classmate for the caricature he drew of me all those years ago, accompanied with the prediction I’d become a marine biologist. I suck at science, so his prediction didn’t come true, but for someone to draw a picture of this formerly flat-chested, depressed, shy wallflower truly amazed me.
Another thing that seemingly hadn’t changed is that for all the years since high school, some of us hadn’t grown up. I still long to have the summer off, or at least more time to enjoy the weather during this time of year, and have retained a childlike naiveté about life that will probably get me in trouble. While in the restroom, a former classmate whom I recognized but whose name I forgot was on her cell phone, in front of the full-length mirror. I only caught her side of the conversation, but it went like this: “She’s pretty. I still hate her, but she’s pretty. She looks good; she looks healthy.” Who she was talking about, I don’t know. But I had to chuckle. I’m sure my classmates are marveling over who got fat, who stayed fat and so forth.
One sobering aspect of the reunion was the list of classmates who passed away. There was one who died and it didn’t really come as a surprise, as his health was shaky all through school. There were a few whose deaths probably occurred while in military service. But there were a couple of students who died that I don’t have any answers for. Car accident? Cancer? Murder? Drug overdose? I may never know. Statistically, it would make sense that out of a class of 583, some of us were destined for an early dismissal.
Getting older didn’t mean the life had gone out of us. We were still lingering in the room after midnight, which is when the party was over. Several classmates were wondering where to go next. Karin had left early. My long-lost friend and classmate offered to drive me to my car. The classmate was worn out, so it was just me and my friend. We were like sisters in high school. We had a lot of catching up to do, so we headed to a restaurant that was open 24 hours on Friday and Saturday nights, and had a wind-blown meal out on the patio. I didn’t get home until 6:30 a.m. It wasn’t the prom, but it was nice to experience once again the fun of hanging out with good friends, talking, laughing, eating and being able to sleep in the next day. It was almost like high school. I was reminded how fun it is to be young, to have your whole life ahead of you, and to have your biggest concern be what outfit you were going to wear that day. The whole night was, as we used to say back in the day, “like, totally awesome!”