Class re­unions: trip­ping down mem­ory lane

Imperial Valley Press - - OPINION - JASE GRAVES

High school class re­unions are funny things (in more ways than one). We spend 12 years try­ing our darn­d­est to get out of school and, by ex­ten­sion, away from our class­mates. Then, ev­ery decade or so, we mi­grate back to­gether like hump­back whales re­turn­ing to their breed­ing grounds (hope­fully with­out the breed­ing – but more like whales than we’d like to ad­mit).

It’s as if those of us who grad­u­ated in the 1980s need an oc­ca­sional re­minder that permed mul­lets, para­chute pants, and Wham! aren’t just the fan­tas­ti­cal stuff of our re­cur­rent night­mares — but el­e­ments of the ac­tual trauma we man­aged to sur­vive (with var­i­ous de­grees of psy­cho­log­i­cal scar­ring).

Some folks avoid class re­unions due to con­cerns about how their phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance may have de­clined over the years. I’m happy to say my looks have ac­tu­ally im­proved with time — un­less you count my ex­pan­sive love han­dles that grow more lov­able with each pass­ing Mex­i­can din­ner. I’ve also de­vel­oped a rep­til­ian skin flap un­der my chin that I’ve learned to flare out as a sort of mid-life mat­ing call. So far, it just seems to give my wife a se­vere headache.

Speak­ing of my wife, in ad­di­tion to her pro­fes­sional suc­cess, she has man­aged to stay slim and beau­ti­ful through­out our mar­riage. So when my 30-year re­union rolled around this year, I was anx­ious to show her off, prov­ing to ev­ery­one that I was ac­tu­ally able to find some­one to marry me with­out hav­ing to place an or­der with a sus­pi­cious over­seas web­site. Be­lieve it, or not, dur­ing high school, I wasn’t the loosely strap­ping (in places) dol­lop of post-dweeb man­li­ness that I am now. I think the girls in my class thought of me as an an­noy­ing lit­tle brother who, with the right treat­ment, might reach pu­berty by his late 20s.

When my wife and I first ar­rived at the re­union venue, it was ex­tremely dark in­side, con­ceal­ing age spots, wrin­kles, and other blem­ishes on my sport coat. As “Don’t You For­get about Me” by Sim­ple Minds roared pre­dictably through the speak­ers, I no­ticed that most peo­ple were hold­ing drinks, so bowing to peer pres­sure, I threw cau­tion to the wind and or­dered some of the hard stuff – a cou­ple of Diet Cokes on the rocks. (This oc­ca­sion was clearly too in­tense for Diet Dr. Pep­per.)

Af­ter milling around and try­ing to de­cide how early we could leave with­out be­ing no­ticed, I fi­nally bumped into a cou­ple of my for­mer run­ning bud­dies. Both have fam­i­lies and suc­cess­ful ca­reers now, and it was just plain weird to stand there as adults dis­cussing chil­dren and daily com­mutes when the main top­ics of our school days con­ver­sa­tions prob­a­bly made us per­ma­nently un­fit to serve on the Supreme Court. It was good to see them, though, and to know that we all “made it,” de­spite the dan­ger­ous risk we once took with a Bic lighter and the af­ter­math of a Taco Bell bean bur­rito.

Af­ter catch­ing up for a few min­utes, it sud­denly be­came clear that there was no chance of mak­ing a grace­ful exit. The re­union or­ga­nizer was a vi­va­cious class­mate with enough black­mail ma­te­rial to co­erce a few of us onto the dance floor for some or­ga­nized hu­mil­i­a­tion – just like old times. The “game” in­volved pair­ing us up and forc­ing us to ma­neu­ver an in­flat­able ball be­tween our­selves from our waists up to our necks with­out us­ing our hands. Luck­ily, I was part­nered with a fe­male class­mate whom I had some­how con­vinced to dance with me a few times when we were teens, so at least she was used to my de­odor­ant. We ac­tu­ally did pretty well, prob­a­bly be­cause she runs marathons — and I run to Wal­mart about twice a week.

Af­ter my great vic­tory on the dance floor, my wife was res­cued from fur­ther em­bar­rass­ment when our el­dest and most ex­pen­sive daugh­ter texted us to come pick her up from what­ever event she was at­tend­ing that re­quired a new out­fit. Even though we couldn’t stay long, I’m glad I went to the re­union. And once my wife gets over her headache, maybe I can con­vince her to play that game with the ball.

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