The reunion was comprised of two events: Friday night was a family event at the local "A" level professional baseball diamond. My kids are too young to be reliably bribable trophy children, so they stayed home with my folks; I saw no need to take the whole "family" theme literally, especially when I had smiling, perfectly behaved facsimiles of my kids in my wallet. The second night was a formal event for classmates and spouses.
The reunion was surprisingly fun. After twenty years, the nonsense falls away. Everyone was kind and happy to reminisce. I had interesting, enjoyable conversations with people I thought I didn't like, or who I thought didn't like me.
It was great to talk to the people who are actually in the stories I tell from high school, and to hear them color in my hazy memories. ("Do you remember that whopper we told?" "Of course; I was standing right next to you, and it was my brother we blamed it on!") These people know exactly what it was like to grow up in the eighties in a small town in Michigan, with Guns & Roses on the tape deck and an eleven o'clock curfew.
"You!" he accused with a pointed (and hammered) finger. "Erin H., the 'great reader.' Always going up to second grade from kindergarten for reading class. But I was just as good a reader as you were!!!"
We were all in good form. After the group picture, I heard a familiar voice yell, "Here's the first guy who ever felt me up!"
The woman, Kimber, was telling the story of their first fumble, long years ago. I laughed along, mentioning that my absent BFF Jane had warned me, "don't get drunk like I did at the tenth reunion and confess to Brian that you had a crush on him like I did!"
They all laughed and Brian said "Oh, yeah. I remember when you did that."
Tires screeched in my mind.
Too late; it was already out there. Realizing that to deny my "crush" now might hurt his feelings, I joined Jane under the bus.
"Yep. We all had a crush on Brian."
"Too bad," I continued. "We could have had little redheaded babies. At this point I'm pretty sure this thing with Steve will last for at least another few years, and by then" -- I circled a hand over my abdominal area -- "all of this will be all dried up."
In retrospect, I think this was my first sign that the wine that I swore I "couldn't feel at all" that night may have had an effect on me.
Then again, Brian knew I was kidding. Really.
My second sign may have been that I got more than one "stare...pause...blink" responses from people as I said something I intended as a joke. Like referring repeatedly to SJ as my "Man Candy" and "Trophy Husband" to people that I barely knew. It seemed funny at the time...
The reunion provided redemption as well as embarrassment. I introduced to SJ to my sixth grade boyfriend, Brad. Brad and I "dated" over the summer but literally never met up or spoke one word to each other during the three months of our relationship. Nonetheless it was true love until the day that Brad had his best friend dump me the first week of seventh grade. My heart was broken and my pride was deeply bruised.
25 years later, it turns out that Brad has grown into an extremely nice man who lives in my hometown with his lovely wife. As Brad, SJ, and I joked about our romance, having what might be the longest conversation (five minutes) that Brad and I ever shared, Brad exclaimed, "and you don't even know!" It was true, I didn't know, so Brad went on.
That story was now about two kids not much older than my own, but also vaguely about me. My adult self was touched and the 12-year old somewhere deep inside me was comforted by that sweet revelation.
That's the wonderful and peculiar thing about a reunion. You're at once a self-assured, content, Spanx-wrapped grown-up and an awkward adolescent.
Both of us were happy to be home again.