OK, so the 26th high school class reunion was a wonderful experience. That said, driving alone into my old hometown on a beautiful (albeit hot) summer evening, the waves of memories washed over me so hard I pulled the car over to catch my breath. It was like when you walk down a beach barefoot through the waves, and on your way back you think you are almost to your towel, but then you look up and the waves have been slowly pulling you off balance and your towel is actually 1/4 mile the other direction? Does that happen to other people or just to me? Anyway, it was like that. Eventually I pulled in to the gravel parking lot, already filled with cars, parking on the approximate location of 2nd base of my old softball field. As I recall, I was the softball player that the coach would have put in right field as the most-likely-spot-I-couldn’t goof-anything-up, but I couldn’t throw that far so I was put at 2nd base and everyone just prayed. Once again, the memories were making me just a little lightheaded.
As I crunched across the stones toward the pavilion with the steel drum band, my eyes scanned the crowd and saw… no familiar faces. As in, which ones are the classmates and which ones are the spouses/significant others??? Add creeping feeling of social panic to whoozy walk down Memory Lane. But — wheww! — people were wearing nametags and I had on my bifocals, so I was set. Just need to make eye contact, quickly scan brain for any firing synapses, then glance nonchalantly at the nametag and continue conversation. I can do this! What’s so scary about class reunions! No problem!
So I chatted with the first couple folks at the door to the dinner area, somewhat bewildered that people had changed so much in the last 26 years. They were taller or shorter than I remembered… more hair… that should have been my first clue. Men as a rule don’t grow more hair in their forties. But I had already spotted hash brown casserole on the buffet line so I was not thinking clearly.
Then I saw faces I would know anywhere — The Muse and The Scholar, sitting at the same table, all smiles to greet me. The Cowboy was unfortunately MIA, otherwise it would have been the Facebook Blog Post Trifecta. After a helping of roast pig (delicious by the way and I am still disappointed that I missed seeing the whole spannferkel-esque carcass), I felt better and started to see other faces I recognized. I settled in to many happy chats, catching up on the years and laughing and looking at photos of kids that were impossibly grown up.
It was about an hour later when I realized that something was amiss — the lightbulb went on when I was talking to Patty, who I knew for sure, and her nametag said Ron… Hmmm, it seems people had been trading nametags and the first several people I talked to were in fact not who I thought they were.
So if you are reading this and I said something completely nonsensical when I first walked in, please forgive me and TELL ME WHOSE IDEA IT WAS TO SWITCH NAMETAGS AND TORTURE THE OUT-OF-TOWNERS????? Especially those with minds like a steel sieve??
But then, Patty put Ron’s nametag on me and put my nametag on someone else, so I guess I became a co-conspirator. All in good fun. Except that to some people I may have sounded like I just had a stroke. But within another hour after that, nearly all the faces started to look familiar again. I knew people. Their faces morphed back into focus and the names came back to me. The Memory Game, high school edition.
It was the Facebook connections that convinced me to go back, and I’m glad they did. Rather than words on a screen, these evanescent facebook friends took their physical form again, and it was so good to talk in person. As midnight rolled near, a group of friends came over to wish me a happy birthday. What a great surprise! I take up valuable brain capacity with the birth-dates of childhood friends, but I thought others were more sensible. At any rate, that was the perfect finish to the evening and I left with a big smile on my face, looking up at the church on the hill, lit against the dark night sky.
Then I navigated the country byways to my parents’ home, you know the kind, the roads lined with Tall Corn. Now, everyone knows the dangers of Tall Corn, which camouflages Catapulting Deer that launch onto the roadway with no warning, also activating the strong magnetic pull of The Ditch. So I drove carefully, all those old memories now safely hidden in the darkness.