One last riff on the high school reunion experience before I let it go for the past it is, again.
Got a phone call back in February to set this all off. I’d pretty much forgotten high school, or so I figured. In any case, life was now ” kids, job, worrying about the mortgage all the things of today. Barely remembered the last job, in San Diego, never mind high school.
But the call came, from classmate and wife of my closest friend in and out of high school those first few years after graduation. Leanne was a good friend before she and Mike figured out they were for-life mates.
As happens, they settled into life in and around South Pasadena, our hometown in suburban Los Angeles. She called to tell me about this 30th reunion and convince me I should come. I write, whether poorly or sometimes hitting a mark, so you have to know that everything in life is, well, material. Reunions, with all the stuff that comes with them, the tension between now and then, the almost universally shared memories we all have of our high school experiences, well, this is great fodder for writing. Or it may be that folks who write tend to dwell on things like this, and try to bring order to these rites.
We’re old enough to begin dying, and thinking about the next generation. At the 30th, many of us have kids like my eldest, a high school senior. We have that window seat to the moment. And we have us, 30 years later. Think there might be some insights there?
So I wrote about all this. I wrote about getting Leanne’s call, along with one of my son’s friend’s coming home to find his dad about my age dead, of a heart or lung ailment, either way a complete surprise. I wrote of getting word that one of my classmates know for his energy and huge heart dying of a heart attack around the same time. I wrote months later, more tongue and cheek, eh, eh, about a case of tighty-whitey adolescent jitters about meeting folks I last saw as teens just before driving out for the reunion weekend.
And then, finally, I wrote about the experience of meeting all these old folks just my age and having a blast.
These all were in columns, little essays with themes and beginnings, middles and ends. With luck I got the flavor, maybe even approached literature. (That would be something.) But so much gets left out in the process. For the work, that’s a good thing. Your story is not THE story. You serve only as eyes and ears for readers to touch their own experiences. Or tap into their imaginations. The work is not wholly the author’s, ever.
But anyway, this is just a longabout way of getting to the point that the most meaningful part of the reunion weekend wasn’t really the reunion events, special and fantastic as they were.
Nah, the biggest deal of all I never wrote about. Too personal? I’m pretty much an open book, so that wasn’t it. It just didn’t fit the sculpture of the column. I’d be tacking mountains on a beach scene, playing hockey with a basketball, putting a sailboat in a creek.
It cycles back to the phone call from Leanne. We hadn’t seen each other or spoken even since probably before my oldest was walking. My little family lived all over the country, with each move getting even more distant from Mike and Leanne. They had their family, home, business to develop. We had ours. We lost touch completely. I know this is a common story. We all have friends we’ve drifted apart from.
There are a few you always think about from time to time, even if you don’t quite find the time to call them up nearly enough. Then years go by. Then it’s a decade. Then it’s just wistful memory and thoughts of goodwill, where they are, whatever they are doing.
Anyway, Leanne broke this spell. Mike e-mailed and invited to me stay with them some nights over the weekend. My mom is still in town, so I divided the time. I think she understood. (My wife and kids couldn’t make the trip this time. I missed being able to show them off, but I gained some freedom to talk with as many people as possible, too. The trade-off was about even.)
Mike’s voice on the phone at my mother’s when I got in town was completely unfamiliar. I knew this guy?
They were grayer and heavier than last I’d seen them. Maybe, if that’s possible, they were happier, too. They are a fun, friendly couple. I’m reminded faintly of “Home Improvement,” with their sense of humor. Mike, a contracter, is a lot more competent than Tim the Tool Man, though. More philosophical, too.
If my class of 1975 is kin, Mike is my brother and Leanne my sister. I’d forgotten the fact of it, even if I thought I remembered. My bad. If I had come to LA and only seen them, that alone would have made the trip. They would make living in LA almost worth it.
My last night there, Mom and I hung out at Mike and Leanne’s for a late barbecue. I recall being a little evil, messing with my mother while she told the story of meeting my father during a college graduation trip to Hawaii. I think I accused her of taking her parents’ money on a pretense of just a vacation, and of hooking up with a local so she wouldn’t have to leave Hawaii. Poor lady, to have a son like this.
Mike and Leanne were patient with all this and I recall having a blast. By the time we left, Mike’s voice had become thoroughly familiar, just as I had remembered.
We vowed to get together again sooner rather than later. We’ll see. Colorado is a long ways away when daily life is busy. I hope we still recognize each other’s voice right away next time we talk.
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