Went to my high school reunion last night.
A former classmate and friend who we will call “Tony” because that’s what we agreed his pretend name would be (his real name is Bob), accused me of going only to collect blog material.
This is only partially true.
I went hoping to collect blog material.
No, that’s not true either.
Actually, I didn’t want to go at all because I felt slightly fat and am very insecure, but my husband said, “If nothing else, maybe you’ll get a good blog out of it” as if this is a dealmaker for everything these days.
I don’t know too many people except perhaps the Homecoming Queen – and ours did not come – who do not feel at least a tad apprehensive about going to their high school reunion. Either that or just ambivalent, the reasoning that “Anyone I want to see, I still keep in touch with, so why go see people I wasn’t even really friends with 30 years ago?”
But I can say this morning with full conviction and only a teeny hangover from my two free drinks that I am glad I went. Very glad. Because here’s what happens or at least happened to me.
All those people who you never kept in touch with or maybe weren’t even friends with? There’s still a connection, a really cool connection when you get 100 or so people into a room all born in the same year (accept for this one guy in a Bergundy sports jacket whom nobody knew and all suspected he wandered in thinking it was the ’69 Niles West class reunion by mistake).
In the case of Niles West — and I’m sure most high schools unless you live on the prairie — several suburbs and junior highs fed into the school. So I had two experiences last night. One was with all the Lincolnwood “kids” I’ve known since kindergarten (the Wooders) and the other was with the kids from Morton Grove, the other predominant suburb feeding into Niles West (the Grovers).
Though I had a wonderful time seeing the Grovers and later bragged that I was one of the few Wooders who crossed over at the reunion and had a great time talking to them (even “Tony”), it was especially fun with the Wooders (I’m sure the Grovers felt this way as well).
Mind you once again, these were not people with whom I have shared a bond for the 30-plus years since. In fact, one good friend from grade school whose name I can’t use for many reasons I couldn’t possibly go into (we’ll call her “Susie” because those are the names we all have – normal girl names like Susie and Debbie and Nancy and Julie and Lisa and Karen, even Karyn – and NOT Carson and Dakota and Winter), asked me why we never talked to each other after junior high.
Because I’m me, I was instantly mortified, assuming I did or said something terrible to her (this was not my normal behavior but we’re talking about 13-year-old girls here and this is a wild and wonderful and truly evil age).
“Susie” quickly assured me I did nothing of the kind but that I just “disappeared” in high school. I assured her that I was in the gym if anyone was looking, and that I thought everyone else disappeared in high school.
Same thing with my kindergarten boyfriend Michael. I loved Michael. Adored him. We both shared a similar speech impediment and a love for Romper Room (or was that my kindergarten boyfriend Howard? I got around in kindergarten).
Anyway, when I asked another classmate Steve, if he knew who the bald guy on the dance floor was, he told me it was Michael. My Michael. I immediately ditched Steve and sprinted toward Michael – or the bald guy I thought was Michael – only to find it was Jimmy, a Grover who did not know me and seemed slightly alarmed. But NEXT to Jimmy was my Michael, also bald (sorry, Michael but you are — shaved head not balding, so I can say this without feeling badly because I think he knows).
There was something weird and wonderful about the kindergarten thing last night. I must have talked to a half-dozen people from Miss Tatz’s kindergarten class, all of whom had vivid memories of it. I’m pretty sure it was because Miss Tatz was not a normal kindergarten teacher but a Playboy bunny posing as a kindergarten teacher. The boys, even at five, had wild crushes on her and the girls all wanted her white Go-Go boots, micro-mini skirts and fishnet panty hose. Yes, she wore these to school – also brought her Lhasa Apso one day – which I suspect is why I don’t think she had a long teaching career.
My friend Kathy remembered asking her mother for fishnet pantyhose like Miss Tatz and getting rebuffed (her mom was strict). I begged for white go-go boots and my mother finally relented. But shortly after I put them on, I fell down the stairs and that was the end of the Go-Go boots.
I also had another memory of kindergarten I did not share with Michael. Mind you, I do not remember extremely important adult things most of the time, but I do recall that in Miss Tatz’s room, we had a large gray tub of cardboard blocks that looked like red bricks. And I remember that one day, Michael and I were inside the tub flinging them around the room.
When Miss Tatz looked up at the precise time I was flinging, she made me put my head down (which was extremely traumatic, particularly since it meant I had to miss Show-and-Tell and I had a really good thing to show and tell about that day). But first she asked me why I did such a thing. Naturally, I replied “Because Michael told me to,” and she said, “If Michael told you to jump in Lake Michigan, would you?” and I said, in a very tiny voice, “Yes” because I would have.
Of course, I shared none of this with Michael either then or last night because I was busy babbling about Romper Room and other things that men never remember. In fact, I am reasonably sure most of the men in the room didn’t remember high school, let alone their hot kindergarten teachers (except for Steve, he still remembers Miss Tatz in a slightly creepy way).
But all things considered, it was a really fun reunion, even considering that it cost $77 and all we got was cheese and crackers and taffy apples because one of our classmates has a taffy apple company (which was a very nice perk) and the two free drinks.
But we left with much more. At least I did. By 47 and 48, people mature (with a few exceptions). There was no high school pettiness, no cliques, only the camaraderie of a group of people who shared our childhoods together, who know things about you that very few people outside the room do and who, at least for a few hours one Saturday night, believed we were all great friends.
Except for that guy in the Burgundy sports jacket. I’m still not sure about him.