Friday night, as mentioned, was the "official" reunion night, or at least part 1 of 2. Another gathering was held the following evening at a place way up north in Stuart called "Sailor's Return." Based on what I've seen and heard, only a handful made that trip.
My social calendar was unsually active Friday as one of my co-workers was having a (30th) birthday party downtown. She threatened that I must attend. I did, hanging out for a few hours before the trek west through some ugly weather to the outskirts of Wellington and the reunion. Things had an ominous start as when I pulled up, a guy was getting handcuffed by the cops one parking lot over.
The Forest Hill High clan, Class of 1987, were scattered around the patio area outside the Bonefish Mac restaurant. Unlike that of my 20th reunion, I immediately recognized several faces, and even got smiles of recognition returned. Many of the previous night's guests came back, but there were several others. Most of whom I was happy to see.
I discovered one classmates's father is a patient of my colleague's, but I've seen him as well. She talked about the ensuing 25 years, her satisfaction working for a local non-profit. When I asked her about one of her old neighbors, I guy I knew in junior high school, she quite shockingly relayed that he had committed suicide two years after hs graduation. This stopped me cold, even though I had not spoken with him since 8th grade. In my memory, he is forever that cheerful, sarcastic kid who blinked a lot. He never seemed distressed about anything, but one never knows.
Another woman nearly bowled several classmmates over running up to reveal that she had a crush on me during the old days. Tonight, she was clearly tipsy, but oddly lucid and just as witty as I remembered. In high school, she mainly hung out with an interesting guy I had met years earlier, in junior high. A very caustic, sour old soul whose hair was a perpetual tussle and complexion was more crater-ridden than most. This guy could merit his own entry without too much difficulty. He was bitterly hilarious. We were friends all through college (though he went to a different one than me). We drifted, then I called him a few years later when I was living in Georgia. He berated me for losing touch and proceeded to hang up! Unbelievable. I learned years after that of where he worked - a bookstore in Palm Beach. I stopped in to visit but only found a co-worker who told me to come back a few days later. I never returned.
My secret admirer was unfazed when I told her this story. She relayed a few of her own recollections, including his fondness for the Polish pop star Basia. My classmate had also long since been out of touch with him and was now married with kids. I met her husband that night, who probably got irritated with his wife's going on about me. But it was flattering, undeniably. I even raised a Bud (far from my favorite brew, but hey, she bought it) or 2 with 'em.
I made the rounds, chatting with a wildly diverse group, some of whom were just like I remembered, some very different, and others who were much more mature and friendly than I recalled. There were no superstars (CEOs, famous actors, politicans) among them, but a few attorneys, bankers, retail store managers, engineers, housewives, and a rather enthusiastic local podiatrist. Absent from the party this night was one guy who is a world famous dive expert and another who composes scores for film and television. But it was a good turnout, and I even got to have real conversations with people I only knew peripherally back in the 80s. It was a really enjoyable (if loud) night.
As I was saying my goodbyes, one guy gave a drunken sililoquy about "how far we've come" in life, how we were "once small and now look at us". Some of it was coherent, some not. His last words were simple but accurate: "It is what it is." I smiled and dismissed it at the moment, but as I drove home it made more sense. High school happened and then came the rest of our lives, still in progress. My 25th reunion made me appreciate the group with which I spent four years managing (comparatively minimal) teen angst. Your high school mates are a special group, a club in which you'll always be a member, for better or worse. You join several clubs in your life. You're born into one, of course. But there's something about, at least my, high school peeps that makes them special, even the ones I can't stand.
No matter where I go and what I do, I'll always be part of that band. "It is what it is..."
TO BE CONTINUED...