Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Reunion

"So, you're really not going to the reunion?". Stacy, an old high school friend of mine whom I hadn't seen in about two years asked me this as she cut my hair mere hours before my 20-year-reunion was about to take place.

"Nope, I'm not going" I said as tiny tufts of my brown locks drifted to the floor. I had come back up to my hometown with every intention of attending the reunion, but, as the time grew nearer, my desire to attend waned.

"Then why am I cutting your hair?"

"Because it needs to be done". I couldn't see the look on her face, but I knew that Stacy was scowling at me. "Look, I've seen the RSVP list and nobody from the geek classes is going to be there aside from me. I'm hardly going to know anyone".

"You'll know me", Stacy offered.

"Yeah, but I've already seen you today. You're old news".

I prepared to feel the harsh stabbing of Stacy's scissors cutting into my jugular vein.

Sitting at the hotel pool an hour later, watching my daughter splash about, I couldn't help but think about what it was like for me as a child. I was a good looking kid when I was her age. Yet, as I grew up and puberty wrecked havoc on my body, I morphed into a gangly teenager with braces, over-sized glasses and terrible acne. This perfect storm of awkwardness made me terribly shy and terminally unpopular. 

A number of other children had entered the pool and began playing marco/polo. After observing them for a bit, my daughter approached them and asked if she could play along. They readily accepted her and the game was on. That's when it dawned on me: If I don't go to the reunion, I'm just admitting to myself that I don't belong and that I never belonged. One can't expect to be included in something without being willing to ask. You can't have your turn at bat if you're not willing to step up to the plate.

Two hours later, I stood in front of the doors to the bar that was hosting the reunion. For the briefest of moments, I felt like that geek in high school again. I told myself that the person I was back then didn't exist anymore. With that, I walked in, pushed the curtains back and headed for the first group I spotted. I smiled, made my way in and said Hello. I could tell that none of them recognized me because they all stared at my name tag for a good 30 seconds, then at my face and then back at my name tag. Almost in unison, they exclaimed "Tommy? NO WAY! You look awesome!!". Then I was surrounded by hugs, handshakes and pats on the back.

And, as I mingled among the crowd, that's generally how I was greeted. Not only was everyone impressed at how well I had aged, but they all seemed genuinely happy to see me. I tried to spend a little bit of time with everyone there. For most everyone that was there, I could come up with a pleasant story from high school that I could share with them, even if we hadn't been on the best of terms back in the day.

At the end of the night, as everyone was saying goodbye, I felt a hand slap me on the shoulder. I turned around and found myself face-to-face with one of the more popular guys from high school. "Tommy, you are the talk of this reunion", he said.

"Why? Because I aged so well?"

"Yeah, that, and you're funnier than ever. Everyone has been talking about it."

After everything that happened that night, I felt like the guy who hit the dinger to Center winning us the championship in '91. I felt like I had brought home the state football trophy. Most importantly, I felt more comfortable with myself  and my surroundings after four hours in that room than I did during my four years in high school. I felt like the prom king.

2 comments:

  1. glad you had a blast! i'll try to make it to the 40 yr one.. hope my hoveround will stay charged!!

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  2. Remember that next time you meet a James Brown. Gotta ask to play at the party. -Kahn

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