“Brenda and Eddie were the popular steadies and the king and the queen of the prom. Riding around with the car top down and the radio on. Nobody looked any finer, or was more of a hit at the Parkway Diner. We never knew we could want more than that out of life. Surely Brenda and Eddie would always know how to survive.“
Billy Joel, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.”
I have a thirtieth high school reunion coming up in a couple of months. I went to the tenth, but skipped the subsequent gatherings. Still haven’t decided whether to go, even though it will be held only an hour’s drive away. There are some old acquaintances I’d sure like to see, but let’s face it, the years can be sometimes be unkind to childhood memories.
It’s funny looking back and remembering things and people we thought were so important in high school. The groups and cliques represented: jocks, band geeks, smart kids, hipsters, rockers, rednecks, and so forth. I don’t remember there being much room for individuality, although I’m sure there were some kids that just flew under the radar of all that nonsense. Those are the ones that I’d really like to talk with if I go. I’d wager they’re the ones that are more well-adjusted today, some thirty years later. Probably have nice families, good jobs, and are fine upstanding members of their communities.
It all seemed so important to “fit in” when you were there, but a couple of year’s of life later you realize what a bunch of nonsense it all was.
And of course, time can be awfully hard on our appearances. It is this part that makes me hesitant to go. The riskiness of destroying images from the past. The awful realization that some people “peak” in high school, and it’s all a downhill slide after that.
I imagine the guy who was voted “Best Looking” sitting over by the punch bowl. He was a stud athlete that all the girls dreamed about. Fancy car, latest clothes, All-State credentials, a total mister cool. Seemed to have the world on a string; sky’s-the-limit life ahead. Today he has a huge beer gut and his face looks like a caved-in catcher’s mitt. He’s been divorced five times and is currently selling mobile homes out on the bypass.
I visualize what was once the girl of my adolescent dreams. Cheerleader, homecoming queen, most likely to win Miss America and marry a millionaire. Face like an angel and legs all the way up to her neck. She wouldn’t give me the time of day back then. Today she is seated strategically close to the buffet table, and she looks like she’d have a legitimate shot at the starting right guard position for the Dallas Cowboys. Somebody call Jerry Jones. He’s always looking to spend a few million on mediocre talent.
But then there will be the real surprises.
I’ve already discovered a few through the magic of Facebook. Guys who seemed like under-achievers back in the day who have gone on to do great things in business, science, and the arts. Girls who I can’t remember giving a second look, now closing in on 50, who are drop dead, movie star gorgeous. Holy smokes, woman! Where were you in ’79? Oh, you sat behind me in homeroom. Sorry.
I, of course, have absolutely nothing to worry about. I am still the same suave, debonair, sophisticated hillbilly of thirty years ago.
Just the other day, I asked a co-worker what happened to another forester who used to do some work around our area. “He’s retired,” was the response.
I asked how that could be, since he was younger than me.
“His wife’s got money.”
Always a quick wit, I asked “You think I could steal her away from him so I could retire? After all, he ain’t much to look at.”
“Well, maybe you haven’t noticed it, but you ain’t either,” was the comeback.
Touche. Maybe I’ll just stay home on reunion night.