We dropped Daniel off at my dad’s house and drove into Schaumburg Saturday night for my 20th high school reunion. I had been wracking my brain for the last couple of weeks, trying to remember people and events. I did remember some, but it only seemed to illustrate to me how much I had forgotten. Before the official start, Meka and I had dinner with my friend Greg. He flew out from Colorado for the event… also for the pizza, if truth be told. While Colorado Springs has Illinois beat in the topography department, their pizza can’t hold a candle to Lou Malnati’s. We sat and reminisced over calamari and our favorite cheese and sausage creation: corn meal crust, tart tomatoes and thick enough to stop a bullet. I don’t consider Greg a “high school” friend. We go back way before high school. He was the first person I knew who owned a computer.
Entourage is a pretty upscale restaurant and bar, especially for someone used to the Rockford area. My car was parked for me and I was ushered up a flight of stairs to meet up with the other surviving members of the Class of 1988. Clutching my “memory book” full of old yearbook photos and a complimentary pedometer (?!), I felt like I was in passing period again except – in general – everyone had less hair, more middle and were better dressed than I recalled. Passing period; I laughed to myself. I hadn’t thought of that in a long time.
The first person I met up with was Geoff. He sent me an e-mail a couple of months ago when he came across my name on the Internet. He looked pretty much the same as I remembered when we sat together at lunch… except for being married, of course. I think the last time I had seen him in seventh grade, we still thought girls were kind of icky. Alec was standing by the wall of windows. He had glasses and a shorter hair cut than when we tag teamed a poem in junior high, but otherwise he looked the same. I had a number of people walk up to me and say I hadn’t changed a bit. I wasn’t quite sure how to take that; I weighed about 100 pounds in high school and most of that was hair.
The lights dimmed a bit and it became a bit harder to read the nametags. The DJ cranked the eighties music. I found I recognized bits and pieces of people. I remembered Debby that way. She wasn’t the girl next door, but I could see her house across the retention pond behind my backyard. Her eyes and expressions were what I remembered when I gave her a Cootie game at her sixth birthday party. Amy looked familiar, but it wasn’t until I saw her talking and her body language that I recognized her as the girl who lived down the street from Greg. We all rode the bus to elementary school together. I ran into Kelly and I didn’t recognize her at all. Of course, when we were in science class at Keller junior high she was about a foot taller than me. I think this was the first time we ever spoke face to face.
Halfway through the night, it occurred to me that while I knew a lot more people than I thought I would, almost all of them were friends from elementary school or junior high. John had been in my Spanish class sophomore year in high school, but I remembered him better as the kid who always wore his Webelos uniform to class in fourth grade. While he’s still in good shape, he did mention he didn’t wear it much anymore. I had a good time talking to Joy and her husband. I did have a high school memory of her; she was the first person I knew who dressed up to go to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It inspired me to see it when I went to college. We waxed nostalgic about the teachers at Enders-Salk then talked Cub Scouts. Both our kids are Bears. We sold ice cream in the summer; they’re selling popcorn in the fall. The music finally progressed to the 21st Century and the strobe lights lit the small dance floor. I told Meka to keep saying “Go Saxons!” at the bar. Someone was bound to buy her a drink. I needed her liquored up enough to dance with me.
The lights came up and the music ended. I rubbed my eyes and as I waited for my hearing to return, I finally ran into some genuine high school people. Brad looked a lot like the big guy I remembered from high school except for the goatee. Brad illustrated my short stories for the literary magazine senior year. He had married Heidi from our class. She was a swimmer and I remember her wearing a mock football jersey with “Heidi-Ho” on the back. Darrin looked the same, a barrel-chested guy who did gymnastics in high school and still coached it down near Peoria. I talked to Lisa, my major high school crush. I had written a poem about her and it had won second place in a poetry contest junior year. Lisa won first place. Twenty-one years after the fact, I finally got to tell her the story and we shared a quick laugh.
Before I left, I did get Tim’s card. He was my old next door neighbor. His mom still lives there and I was horrified to hear my old house was now a crack den. I guess it’s true; you can’t go home again. I took four snapshots during the night. That was pretty uncharacteristic of me; I take fifty pictures when we take a trip out to McDonald’s. Just three weeks ago, I was unable to place more than a dozen of my fellow classmates from Schaumburg High School. Last week I struggled to remember more than a handful of experiences from that time in my life. Driving home, Meka paged through the memory book and I was able to tell her a story about almost everyone she mentioned.