I told myself that as soon as I recognized someone, I would go in and join the party. So I sat in the car for 10 minutes, watching old strangers going into my hometown's ritzy Yacht Club. Nobody but strangers and a harbor full of bobbing yachts. Boy was I in the wrong place.
No. The letter clearly said my 40th high school reunion was here and now. I finally went in, wearing my best frozen smile and sneaking glances at everyone's chest. Which is exactly how I left high school 40 years ago, sneaking chestal glances in wonder at the lovely way half my classmates were developing their upper bodies. Now I was only trying to read their name tags, but I still felt just as guilty. So easy to see the tag's big, jolly "HELLO." So hard to read and remember the names underneath.
The names slowly evoked memories of school pranks like the mysterious chicken tracks that often walked across the floor of Latin class, of long lost loves that were always more longing than loving, of wild parties that only my fellow nerds would remember as wild. "You weren't nerds," a classmate said, she who remains impossibly beautiful. "The word didn't even exist back then."
"Ahh," I replied smoothly, not stammering and blushing nearly as much as I would have done 40 years ago in her presence, "We were the cutting edge of nerddom."
As the reunion relaxed, the names and memories became people again. Classmates recounted what had happened since last we met, many decades and pounds ago.
Some bragged about children and grandchildren, or places visited, projects done, money earned or people helped. But it was good bragging. A bragging that accounted well for the years since 1959.
Some of my classmates are ready to turn 60, and some of us still cling to youthful delusions of adequacy, delusions of still being young, with plenty of time left before taking our final exams.
We toasted those who have fallen and teachers who have given us so much, and everyone politely lied and promised to stay in touch until the next reunion.
The last toast I saved for the salad girl, she who worked nights in the kitchen behind the swinging doors of this fancy club and sold cookies by day in the school cafeteria just to help her favorite first-born son go on to college. Mom, I can't quite give you a yacht yet, but the reunion band is still playing, and tonight the last dance is for you.