Ladies and gentlemen, straight from the ballroom at the Madison Hotel, site of the 30th reunion of the Class of 1983… I happily present to you the witty,wonderful writing stylings of one Lizzie Crestview, formerly of the pseudonomymous blogging duo Lizzie and Jane of Pandoration.com fame.
Lizzie (a.k.a. Maureen) and Jane (a.k.a. me!!) haven’t written together in quite some time, so it’s my tremendous pleasure to see her ponder our high school reunion here. I hope you will enjoy this as much as I do.
Class of ‘83
Thirty years and I’d never been to a class reunion. (I think I was actually preparing to walk down the aisle when our fifth was held. Or was I in the throes of morning sickness with my first baby?) In any event, each reunion was skipped without so much as a backward glance–due to what I told myself was a happy absence of nostalgia.
And then, thwap! I got the notice in the mail and for months I couldn’t get the date out of my mind.
I even marked it on my calendar in bright purple pen. But I didn’t really understand why.
Like you, Jane, I told myself I already kept up with the people I wanted to see. And everyone else existed in my memory as either a mildly pleasant sort of blur or a snotty/crappy/sneering sort of blur.
Why resurrect either?
And besides all that, did I really want to talk about my divorce and string of failed relationships? Or the fact that I never did come to define career success in a way that lends itself to a concise title on a crisp, linen-weave business card.
But earlier this year, a real person emerged out of the big early-80s high school blur, a person who stirred a vivid memory from a warm early-October night in 1982. I was one month shy of 17 when I had an unusual conversation with “Jack,” a classmate I’d never really spoken with before in our feudal-society high school. It was a dialogue that felt significant at the time, even though I couldn’t exactly say why it deserved to be set apart.
I stayed late at a friend’s party talking with Jack, who sat in front of me in senior English class. He was one of those utterly exasperating people who seemed to be good at all things athletic while also managing to be socially graceful and academically smart.
And somehow Jack and I found ourselves hanging out on that friend’s back deck talking for hours. I remember it as a sober conversation, though I’m sure in hindsight there must have been a few sudsy Solo cups close at hand throughout. Anyway, we talked about a lot of things. About our great big families, dreams about college and the future, music, and… experiences of loss. I felt that night somehow a little more connected than I had been before…and less alone in my noisy, noisy head.
Did I have a crush on Jack in the aftermath of that conversation? Why of course I did.
Was the crush the part that mattered? Nah, not really. He remained in my memory as a fellow traveler—one with substance and a heart. I was always glad to have had that conversation.
Sometime earlier this year I posted on Facebook that I had had a discussion with my teenage daughter about a book I love, The Glass Castle. It’s a memoir about growing up in a crazy-dysfunctional family.
Jack, who’d befriended me on Facebook sometime in 2012, commented on the post. He’d heard of the book, he wrote, but maybe the subject matter would hit a little close to home to make for an enjoyable read.
A brief back-and-forth about adolescent trials followed—and then a mention of the upcoming 30th reunion.
Did I plan to go? Well, of course. Suddenly, it was just that simple. There were people who’d played a part in my growing up (even the ones I hadn’t stayed in touch with)—and I wanted to go home and see them. Wanted to get a glimpse of who they’d become–and maybe even learn a little bit more in the process about who I’d become. I t was good to share in a hotel-room comparing of notes with you, my classmate and blogging buddy, late, late that night. And to marvel once again over your humor and your transparency. I also got to celebrate a renewed connection with a friend who’d been both rock-solid support and social guide between sixth grade and graduation. And with whom I’d sadly lost touch sometime after I started having babies and she started rising in the New York financial industry.
I got presented with the photojournalistic history of my springtime penchant for class-cutting (and talking friends into running off into the woods with me to escape Chemistry and Geometry). Not to mention my consummate band-geek alcohol-sneaking (Scotch in Vidal Sasson shampoo/conditioner bottles and sloe gin in Chloraseptic “flasks”…and somehow the band teacher believed I needed all of those powerful economy-size ablutions for a three-day trip?) I saw pictures I don’t remember ever having seen before—and I was smiling wide in every single one of them.
And as I looked at those photos I remembered the warmth of being surrounded by friends who were truly kind and good. And here they were now in the bar of the Madison Hotel, sharing openly their successes and disappointments. Aging parents, stressed marriages, career u-turns, lists of degrees, personal reinventions, creative outlets, miracle recoveries, races run hard, leaps of faith, jettisoned bad habits (and boyfriends), and precocious teenagers. That malleable, adolescent-girl sweetness from the pictures had crystallized into kickass fortitude and salty wit.
And what about Jack?
He is still thoughtful and solid and smart. The kind of person who takes carefully composed pictures of everyone else at the party (and posts only the flattering ones on Facebook). Who smiles wide when asked about the oldest daughter who just headed off to college. Who asks good questions and seems interested in hearing the answers.
And who, amazingly, remembers a warm October-night conversation on a friend’s back deck, from a lifetime ago in 1982.