A friend and classmate of mine is now actively planning our high school reunion. She has gathered up some helpers, chosen a date, and is actively in the throes of getting people to commit to being there by attempting to convince them to go ahead and send a check in. I'll admit that I am one of the laggards...partly because I have to check my calendar to make absolutely sure that I can participate...and I have yet to ask Big Dave if he wants to go. Right now, I am planning for both of us to be there.
Bless his heart...it is likely that he wouldn't know what hit him if he went. Big Dave is five years older than I am, is from Greenville, Alabama, and his normal bedtime is about 9:00 p.m. He is friendly, but he honestly wouldn't know a soul other than me...and I don't let him dance in public.
It is the Class of 1981's 30th reunion this year. The funny thing is...we all still think we're eighteen. Well, other than the various aches and pains, thoughts of retirement, and the fact that many of us have kids older than eighteen. I suppose in our heads...we still are. That's one of the dirty secrets of life...you may age on the outside...but on the inside...not so much.
I do wish I had the good sense then that I like to think that I have now because I would have done things a lot differently. I would have participated in every club, would have actually gone into the Smithsonian Institute when the band went to Washington D.C. when I was in the 9th grade (instead of sitting outside avoiding Moonies), and I wouldn't have let Mr. Baskin make me feel like a total doofus in Algebra II. I would have actually read the books we were assigned instead of doing it at age 28 when I felt I needed closure (and WalMart had classics for fifty cents apiece), and I would have been nicer to everybody. Oh, there's more that I'd change...but I've forgiven myself for being stupid a long time ago.
I've been blessed to have had the chance to reconnect with several of the girls from the class at a dinner and a weekend at Warm Springs. After catching up on Facebook...we thought it would be really cool to do it in person. So we went to dinner a couple of times and then planned our girls weekend. We hung out together, did karaoke at Stubby's Pub (under the name "Hen Party"), and caught up on what has transpired over the past quarter of a century or so.
Oh. My. Gosh. A quarter of a century. Plus five years.
Funny thing, though...it didn't seem like it has been that long. Everyone still looks the same to me when I see them although my brain may register that things are different. I see them as my heart knows them...and every one of them is beautiful and special to me. But I've also found that I really like everyone so much better than I ever knew I did in high school. Wish I'd known that then. But it is so difficult for girls in high school...it takes decades for us realize that we can actually be friends with people who aren't exactly like us...and be the better for it.
We spent a little bit of time with the annual trying to locate news of everyone in our class. Since then, we've found a lot of people on Facebook, and we stay fairly caught up with what is going on with everyone as a result.
We've lost some classmates...and that is always sad. It makes you realize how short life is and how precious.
I've been surprised at what some folks have ended up doing as adults. Most everyone grew up to be responsible, productive citizens. Our class is full of lawyers, professionals, administrators, teachers and hard workers.
I mean, I half-expected the incarceration rate to be higher than it was.
After all, this was the class that purchased a car and drove around the track at the football field at games. The occupants were dressed like the Blues Brothers and the theme from "Peter Gunn" was blaring out of the windows. Our class song was "Back in Black" by AC/DC. I still smile when I hear it.
Okay, okay...I actually dance. And yes, it probably looks scary.
This is the class that was wide-open, unique, and somewhat "in-your-face" about most everything. People were pretty much "what you see is what you get."
I feel for the planners of this reunion, though. Herding cats is truly an understatement as a descriptor. But when the day actually comes...and we get over being embarrassed that we look different...or maybe that's just me...it is such an amazing experience to be in the company of people who knew you when you were young...and are still speaking to you anyway.
When I have gone to the 10th and 20th reunions I felt a little awkward at first. I mean...I am a totally different person than I was when I lived in Thomaston. Sometimes I forget that everyone else is too. I mean...life intervenes. Sometimes life is like a kiss, and sometimes it is a slap in the face. We've all had time to dig into our bags of fate and drag out some stuff we'd wish we hadn't...and a whole lot of stuff that we are grateful beyond measure that we did.
Some of us married our high school sweethearts...and others of us met our spouses in a parking lot in Fort Deposit, Alabama or while we were waitressing at the Golden Corral. Some went to college...and some went to the house to raise kids and build a life. Some of us still have kids at home...and some of us have grandchildren. Some may have never married...or we have a life that we certainly didn't imagine thirty years ago.
Many of us left town...and we look back at Thomaston with a mixture of warm memories and regrets. We might go back now and not see anyone that we recognize. Our high school is no longer a school...and our band director is now conducting in the hereafter.
We may have moved on and swore we were better off somewhere else...but there is still a part of us that wants to just check in with those classmates who - in the great lottery of life - wound up sharing those growing up years in a small town in west central Georgia and comprised the R.E. Lee Class of 1981.
As for me, I'm looking forward to seeing everyone, but am also actively trying to lose weight so that I at least somewhat resemble the girl they remember. When the hair started coming in a little grayer than I like...I chose "blonde" as the default color. I doubt I'm alone.
There is a quiet desperation to living in a small town when you don't realize at the time that you are just a temporary citizen. It is just like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. You struggle with trying to figure out what it is that you are supposed to do...and you don't find it until you see the Upson County sign in your rearview mirror. I knew I was home when the people in Alabama pronounced my name "care-in" instead of "kay-run." I've been here for the past 28 years.
I hope that many of my classmates will be there and that they will be as pleasantly surprised at how great everyone is. I know that has been the most gratifying thing on the occasions when the "girls" have gotten together over the past year or so.
So, if you are from Thomaston, Georgia in the class of 1981 and are reading this...send in your money. Plan to be there.
Hopefully, I'll see you there...