"Don't you try and pretend
It's my feeling we'll win in the end
I won't harm you or touch your defenses
Vanity and security..."
–Simple Minds, Don't You Forget About Me
Not all of us, mind you. But I did, as well as many of my friends. We were young adults, celebrating our class of 1984 5-year high school reunion, living our kinda new-found pseudo-independence – some of us still going to college, others done or onto grad school and many others already working full-time jobs. I was working full-time, going to college and mostly taking care of myself financially.
Adulting never comes easy when you’re re-entering the earth’s atmosphere from the late teens and hurtling toward your 20’s, and my experience was not any different, especially growing up in a small Californian Central Valley town. Add to that the mind-numbing anxieties I experienced at times and had since the end of high school, and damn, my adulting was tough. However, high school was a very important coming-of-age time for me and I was very involved in sports and student government, so I was still super-excited to go to our first reunion post high school, and nothing was going to stop me.
And mercy me, nothing did. In writing this, I couldn’t even remember where our first high school reunion was held and had to ask our Facebook reunion group where; I got three different answers. A long, long time ago indeed.
What I do remember quite well was the inviting of everyone back to my house. Well, my parents’ house, as it was theirs, not mine, and I only visited now and again since I lived in the Bay Area at that point. My parents were gone, away on a months-long motorhome journey across the US, but my younger sister and her husband were staying there, as their home was being built at the time.
Yes, I was the one who invited the drunken debauchery over for an after-party. My sister and husband were not happy and multiple times came out of my parents’ room where they were trying to sleep to tell us to settle down. Yet, the after-party raged on, and at some point we turned into our own 1980’s young-adult comedy, complete with skinny dipping in the pool, strange hook-ups and awkward morning wake-ups with the shameful drives home. Plus, the trashed house that you have to clean up under the watchful eye of a grumpy sibling.
All the things we don’t want our children to do when they grow up.
Fast forward 30 years later and there we were celebrating our 35th high school reunion at the very same roller rink that some of us skated at in junior high and high school. Many of us now with children and grandchildren and lots of life’s ups and downs in between. A smaller group than at all the previous reunions, with some classmates who had never attended one our reunions, we all seemed to be more comfortable in our own skins than ever before. I didn’t even take as many pictures as I usually do because I spent more time roller skating and visiting with old friends. My wife and I didn’t go to school together, but she’s attended many of my reunions and always has a great time.
So much life behind us and (hopefully) still so much life ahead, it felt like we’d become all the things we wanted our children to be when they grew up. Or at least, felt better about it. And now many of our children are grown, starting families of their own. Our girls still have many years yet before their adulting begins, but I know I’m proud of what my wife and I have become, regardless of where we’ve been, and because of where we’ve been.
Unable to stay up any longer, it was time for us to leave the reunion and head back to my sister’s house to go to bed. Feeling content with the night from visiting old friends, we said a few goodbyes and turned to leave. That was when one of my old friends called out.
He ran up with another classmate at his side, they both gave my wife and I a hug, and then he put his hand near my lower back and quietly handed me a piece of toilet paper.
“You can’t leave without saying goodbye. Oh, and this was sticking out of the back of your pants. I didn’t want anyone else to see.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“Wow, Sweetie,” my wife said. We all laughed.
“You’re welcome,” he said. “So good to see you!”
Yep, proud of what we’ve become. Let’s queue up Don’t You Forget About Me and leave it at that.