I traveled back to Iowa this past week to attend my 20 year high school reunion. It was preceded by feelings of both dread and excitement, but those hot and cold systems joined to form a most interesting weather pattern within my psyche when all was said and done.
Upon my arrival in the Hawkeye State, I dropped in on my mother – who was working at a retail outlet – to surprise her. The first thing she said to me wasn’t an exclamation of surprise or joy, but rather a subdued:
“Let me measure your neck.”
She then pulled out a tape measure from an adjacent cashier’s drawer and did just that. There was some rhyme to her reason, however, as she does work in a mens’ clothing store and wants to fit me for that damn suit I have to be buried in. The hugs and happiness came after the business transaction. How could anyone not love this woman?
After that abrupt but hilarious welcome, I proceeded to plot my strategy for the weekend gathering of old, but memorable, faces: Would there be the same bullshit from back in the day? Should I prepare for the inevitable tip-toeing around my sexuality? Would people have matured at all? Would anyone be dead or on their fourth marriage? My inquiring mind wanted to know.
As it turns out, pretty much all of the above, minus the death and marriage part.
I met up with a handful of my peeps the night before the reunion. We sort of came together organically at the high school Homecoming football game and then flocked to a bonfire afterward. Libations were had and in the chill of not knowing what to expect, I found a very warm group of people. Open and interesting. Jokes were told, histories revealed and a sense of belonging (at least from my perspective) formed a shield around us. I had a very enjoyable time and I looked forward to the real reunion the next night.
In the expanded group of the actual reunion, there was a little more formality and slightly more posturing. However, I still found the evening to be time well spent. I do not think that feeling was shared by some people and I felt bad that some of them were not finding a connection to the night’s glistening bath of memories. A few left early and I barely had a chance to catch up with them. I was certainly lucky to have a built-in portion of the crowd in my corner pocket – as I see them every time I return to the Iowa prairie. It reminded me how fortunate I was to have those solid friendships in place.
The night closed with a friend requesting Prince’s “Pussy Control” from our born-again-Christian classmate who was the DJ. He accepted our song choice good-naturedly, and we danced……badly.
The subsequent day was dichotomously emotional as I reflected on how grateful I was to have escaped the Midwest for a better life, but also have known such unique, and gifted people. I suspect we will not be doing another reunion as this was our first one in two decades. However, I will attempt to remain optimistic that I will see more than a handful before my ultimate demise from vodka and honey mustard.