While I was away on winter vacation, one of my oldest school friends, Cindy, who I grew up with since aged 7, Facebook messaged me that there was going to be a high school reunion, called the ‘Birthday reunion’, because most of us would be celebrating a big scary birthday this year. I told Cindy, I’d think about it and get back to her.
I pondered going, off and on, right up until the day of the event. I was never one who attended such events, but I seriously gave it some thought. My first thoughts were to not go as I’d declined two other invitations over the decades. My logic was that while in high school, I didn’t socialize much with anyone except a very few students and my friend Cindy, her then boyfriend who became her husband, and Cindy’s younger sister.
My high school was out of my living district, which had me taking a 1/2 mile walk to the bus and 3 consecutive buses to get to school and back daily – save for those days after I got my licence and managed to take my mother’s car to school because most often she was picked up for her daily socializing jaunts, or when Cindy got her own car and we’d ride together. And most of my friends went to the school in my designated living area. William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute was known as a highly academic high school with a gifted program. Several students from that school went on to become successful lawyers, doctors, politicians and writers. Another notable from my high school, ironically, didn’t finish high school, got expelled and went on to become a Hollywood star with Deal or No Deal and now America’s Got Talent – Howie Mandel. He was a few years ahead of me and ironically, my mother was friend’s with his mother but I didn’t know him well, but I rode the bus with his brother Steve to school for years.
I was an awkward teen with no sense of self-esteem and felt like the Ugly Duckling most of my school life. No boys ever looked twice at me and most of the girls traveled in packs or what I often refer to as ‘cliques’. For a girl who was always thinking and had a lot to say about everything, I was quite introverted and timid while in school and didn’t form many relationships, which never inspired me to go to any reunions.
I struggled with my decision to go this time. But I finally decided maybe it would be interesting to see some people of the past and find out about how some of their lives progressed, and of course, see what they looked like now. Plus it would be a good time to spend some time with Cindy. I decided that I came a long, long way from high school days, now comfortable in my own skin, an accomplished writer and author, and a bounty of life experience, and maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to go.
The event was held in a lovely but rather small restaurant and patio cafe, but sadly, the weather was so darned cold and actually snowing again, which put a damper on sitting outside on the patio. The food was great, the music totally took me back to my teenage years, and most of the faces I’d drawn a blank to identifying. But thanks to my trustee friend Cindy who stays on top of many social circles, she was able to identify every questionable face I asked her about.The evening somehow transported me back to some memorable moments back in time.
We arrived early so we could eat something before the crowd piled in. It turned out we weren’t the only ones with that idea. When we arrived there were already more than a dozen people there sitting down at a table eating. So we grabbed ourselves a table and ordered some food. Before long, the introductions began. For a good part of the night, I felt like that old wallflower from back in the 70s as I was quite content remaining at the table and observing, but my trustee friend kept introducing me to people of my past. “Sorry, I don’t recognize you” was the most popular response by many. And in true social form, Cindy would add in, reminding people I had long blond hair back then. That hint clicked with some but went over the fence with others.
Many introductions were brief, some I engaged in conversation with for a short while – small talk and pleasantries, but no real stimulating conversation, except for one girl who I’d barely known in school, but for some reason we just clicked in our conversation about life. She was actually the only person who’d asked what I did for a living or was I retired already like it seemed many girls were. My new friend informed me she was going to retire from doing public relations this year and enjoy the rest of her life. I told her I was a writer and she seemed stoked to meet a ‘real author’, lol. We exchanged email addresses at the end of the evening, and hopefully we will connect.
Three different guys came up to me announcing they remembered me. I laughed to myself thinking three males actually remembered me, one who I recognized and the other two I drew a blank about until they brought up some shenanigans from days past and we had a short chuckle over. Besides another old school chum, only one other girl remembered me, as we were school friends, but I’d completely forgotten about her. She sat down to chat with me. The talk was small and short and although it left me feeling as though we had nothing in common, it was nice to see a friend from the past.
I observed a lot that night and had little flashback moments of many of those students back in the day, remembering who hung around with who, who were the shit disturbers, who were snobby ( a very common trait back in those school days), who ignored me and who were nice to me. I observed their faces and demeanor, curious to see who aged well, who let themselves ‘go’ and who were still friends with their old cliquey groups. I came to realize how far I came from those days, not just in life, but how much I’d grown within myself, how confident I now felt among my old school peers, despite them never knowing.
I looked at that evening as a ‘night out’ and a chance to revisit a past I had no real fond memories of. Perhaps I had an inner desire to show up and present myself as no longer the quiet ‘Ugly Ducking’ of yesteryear, kind of like a “Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee” moment. Sure I’ve aged along with everyone else, and I’m no longer the girl with the long blond hair and glasses, but a now secure, dynamic, still wrinkle-less redhead with glasses who finally found her voice in the world. I had no intentions of going back to the past, only to visit how time had treated my old school alumni and a curiosity to see how they’d fared in life since. I’m glad I went to my first and only reunion. Everyone should experience that once, and for me, once was enough.
Have you ever gone to a school reunion? If so, how did it make you feel?