I did wake up on Sunday morning with a slight sense of relief. My 25th high school reunion festivities were over. There was no more agonizing over whether I was willing to find my big girl panties and actually show up. There was also no wondering if I was going to get blown off by the same old friend a fourth day in a row. As it turns out, the only person I was reunited with was the insecure teenager who often paced along the edge wondering where, or if, she fit in.
I just got off the phone with that "same old friend", and fortunately, or unfortunately, she has become well aware in the years since that summer that she will have to drag/escort/lure/bribe me to next summer's 35th. She called from several states away because she saw evidence on social media that I had stepped outside my comfort zone and she needed more information regarding how that had happened. So here's what caused the twist...I was invited.
My friend, who had called last month to check in, said she might be coming to town for the homecoming game at our high school (which is near where I live). She later sent confirmation that her plans had been firmed up and she would be here. We were supposed to have company that weekend, so I initially declined. I was disappointed that I was not going to see her, but admittedly relieved that the decision process could be completely avoided. Then our company cancelled, then my son was headed out of town, then my husband was assigned to referee a football game that same night...that same homecoming game. I messaged my friend as soon as all of those pieces came together before I could change my mind or even really think too much about it. I had to accept the fact that not every reunion can be a quiet table for two at Panera. I made one small attempt to bail, sending a text that I did not want to crash their gathering. The response was that I would not be crashing and to please come. Despite the dueling forces swirling within me, I knew I would regret staying home on my couch even more than whatever fate was in store for me on the grounds of so much, oh so very much, teenage angst.
My husband was suited up in his assigned striped wardrobe, so it was time for me to get my act together. Sadly I couldn't ask the beautiful bracelet to do the heavy lifting this time because I needed something more suitable! I could have grabbed some of my typical duds that are comfortable enough on an average day of being me, but instead found strength in hand me downs. The shirt was a recent cast off from a friend's closet, and I was hoping it still had some of her confidence in its fibers. The jeans came to me via another friend awhile back, so I wished for those threads to still hold some of her ability to pull off fashion. The sneakers? Well, those came from my mom, so of course the vibes would be useful. Obviously I still had my usual ill fitting bra to remind me who I was. A little makeup, a little hairspray, a little grateful for the rain that would excuse any shortcomings on those fronts. And just like that we were in the car, where my husband knew to ignore my insecurities and nervous chatter. Pulling into the high school parking lot, there were too many memories to focus on anything in particular. Mostly I was just relieved that only one of us had to brave the locker room.
I made my way to the alternate, out of the rain and indoor, meet up spot. My friend was right inside the door, so I didn't even have to do that dreaded "looking around for a place to land" thing. Breathe...relief! And so began four plus hours of relaxed and easy conversation as various others joined us. Contrary to any misguided beliefs and nagging thoughts that still clung to some corners of my mind, nobody asked why I was there nor did they kick me out of any group photos. I was right there next to somebody whose name I was able to conjure, but only a vague sense of familiarity crossed our faces beyond that. I remarked to one woman about her popularity in high school, and she did not share that recollection. Looking back, I am unclear as to how exactly I would have defined "popular", other than to say it was a realm I did not find myself in. I was very concerned about belonging, or more importantly, staying away from places I thought I did not belong. Always thinking, always caught up in the details. After another group photo, I introduced myself to one of the women saying I was not sure if she remembered me, but that of course I knew her because she was a legend (soccer player). The "popular" girl laughed and commented on my sense of who people were in high school as I had now doled out "legend" status. I had not lost sight of who I was and, while accepting that, felt more at ease about letting others accept me as well.And never mind which teenagers were going home with any of these football players, as that guy in the stripes is all mine!