Tuesday, August 24, 2004

What's Old is New Again (Part 3)

(Read also Part 1, and Part 2)


I was supposed to play in a...yes, believe it...a mud volleyball tournament Saturday morning at 9:00 for a local charity. 8am rolled around, and so did I - back under the covers. After last night, no early morning for this boy...

(As it turned out, I wish I'd gone. My team's first opponent turned out to be a team from Hooters. Let's just let that thought simmer for a moment.



L. and I spent most of the day Saturday running errands and enjoying our brief childless freedom. Kids were still with grandparents, and would be until Sunday afternoon.

L. would not be able to attend tonight's festivities with me, sadly. Her work required her to be at a soiree this evening on the other side of town, so I'd have to go alone..

Well, not alone exactly. I had a date :) When I found out L. couldn't come, Beth agreed to be my "date" for the evening. Well, at least we would ride together. I would pick up Beth at her parents' house that evening where she was staying while in town.

(Now before any minds start wagging, Beth and L. know each other and have for a long time. Everyone was cool about it.)

So we played it up. I got dressed in my new suit (thank you, Men's Wearhouse) and drove out to Fountain City, which is the North Knoxville suburb where she and I both grew up.

I'd visited her house several times in high school, and just driving back to a neighborhood I hadn't seen in twenty years was as nostalgic as anything. I pulled into the driveway and she met me at the door in curlers. Women. Same as always.

I was a little disappointed that her parents weren't home - I was looking forward to either:

a) Promising to have their daughter in early, or

b) Declaring that we were 38 years old, and I'd keep her out just a long as I damn well please ;)

Finally she appeared in a very flattering black dress - thanks to the miracles of Febreze Wrinkle Releaser - and off we went.

I pulled into the Country Club parking lot...now Beaver Brook Country Club is way out in Halls, in North Knox County. I've never actually seen the golf course that is there, but I'm assuming it exists.

As we got out, a girl...well, woman (twenty years later they aren't girls anymore, but it's hard to break the habit) pulled in beside us. It was Laurie, who hadn't even heard there was a reunion till she happened to call one of the other grads. He told her it was tonight! So there she was. Laurie is now vice-principal at an Elementary School in Oak Ridge.

As we went inside, 80's music was playing from the DJ. Over the course of the even we were serenaded to such tunes as Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart," Met at Work's "Down Under," J. Geil's Band's "Centerfold" and other late, lamented tunes from the last era where music was actually interesting.

IT was much more relaxed in the banquet hall, at least for me. Beth was getting a bigger and bigger kick out of seeing everyone again for the first time, but since I'd spent time with them last night we fell into familiar patterns easier.

When dinner time rolled around, we were short tables so had to move some in from the deck. What a team we were ;)

One thing I was glad of was that nobody I talked to seemed to be making a deal out of where they were in their careers or jobs. Sure, we ran the gamut from lawyers to bankers, internet designers to AOL Marketers, housewives to horse caretakers, but there was little bravado, or one-upsmanship. We were who we were, and that was that. We celebrated each others' successes at face value.

Remember how I was starting to obsess how I looked? And what clothes to wear? Shouldn't have - didn't make a difference. Like before, we all looked how we looked and nobody cared. The girl who probably wouldn't have said two words to a certain guy in school was chatting amiably about something funny her kids did. Looks didn't matter, jobs didn't matter...we were friends, and classmates.

Another new face was Missy, who played Ado Annie to my Ali Hakim in our senior production of "Oklahoma!". She and her husband had traveled from the DC area to attend, and I have to say of all the people I saw again that night, she had changed the least. She still looked about 18, but with just a different hairstyle.

When she first walked up to me, she looked at me at bit quizzically for a moment, then glanced down at my name tag. In that moment of recognition, she glanced back up smiling, and said, "Oh! Barry! You've grown up!"

Hm. Wasn't quite sure what to make of that at first, but I took it as a compliment ;)

It was interesting, though - her personality in high school was bubbly, flighty...it was rare when you didn't see her smiling. In the here and now, that was still there but I could see it was tempered with experience and wisdom. For all of them, it was true - personalities were the same, really. Beth is still sarcastic, Danny still had the dry humor, Andy was still sharp-witted, Lee had the same bravado...but it was different. There was seasoning. There was travel, there was heartache, there was love, there was hate, there was misery, there was joy - these qualities didn't exist in us in 1984, but who we are now in 2004 was that core person, the basic good people, and viewed through the crucible of time.

Were we now....gasp!...mature?

Is this what maturity looks like? Sure, there was giggling, but it wasn't over boys - it was how cute the pictures of our kids looked. There was ironic laughter, and appreciation of where we'd been when Danny brought in some of the old school newspapers he'd saved from our senior year. We read through the predictions, the "Last Wills and Testaments" where we gave away things to the underclassmen.

For a long time I've felt I was still clinging to the last vestiges of my childhood. I'm lucky to be able to relive some of that through my kids. Star Wars, Land of the Lost, Schoolhouse Rock...I can share these things with BrainyBoy and GiggleGirl and watch them bring joy to their lives as they did mine. But until now I felt I didn't yet belong in the adult world. I'm 37, married with two kids and I've still felt like I'm 23. I was uncomfortable around "grown-ups". When people my age or older get together at church to talk, or fellowship - I find it difficult to relate and gravitate toward interacting with people younger than I. I still feel people see me as a kid, a college-age kid who sometimes may have something of value to contribute but mostly needs to hush and keep out of the way.

Maybe that's over. I saw that night all the people that I still remember as kids....they were grown up. And not 10-year-reunion 28-year-olds - we're 37 and 38 now. We're grown up. We can't ungrow, and everyone's become adjusted to that fact.

And if they can do it, well so can I.


The party continued on into the night. Lee was upset because last call was 11:30, and he and Beth avoided any (friendly) political confrontations. I got drafted volunteered to start up a CHS Class of '84 webpage to post information about our grads. Missy's husband Gerry and I talked about internet healthcare marketing. I caught up with Harold's brother and parents, who lived near my house when I was growing up. Beverly and Danny live near each other and didn't realize it until just recently.

We missed Carl, and Johnny, and Tyson and the the other classmates who have left us.

We also thought about and remembered the ones who were unable to attend for whatever reason: Tracye, Chuck, Laurie, Joanna, Kim, Karen, Paul, Cindy, Wiley, Sonja, Kris, David, David, Tammie, Lynn, Beth (the other one), Billy, and others. We hoped to catch up to them again, someday.

And we promised -- promised -- to have a 25th reunion in five years. In the meantime, those who live close by would continue to organize mini-reunions as often as possible.

I mentioned on my site once before that I've never seen a group of people who were so willing to co-exist with each other across cliques. Almost everyone had some kind of interaction with everyone else there. I hope that acceptance and tolerance has carried over into their lives.

It got to be midnight, and the party broke up. Some of us stood outside in the parking lot for a while to chat, then finally we headed out.


For Beth, the night was still young. She had made plans to go back out and meet up with her younger brother. Back at her house, we hugged one last time and she was on her way.

I drove home, again with thoughts and images reeling through my head. Got home, couldn't sleep.

Where am I? What are you doing with your life?

Exactly where I want to be, doing exactly what I want to do.

Just now, finally - like she said - all grown up.

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