(Photo by Col. William Pine, USAF. Thanks for your patience, Colonel!)
I dragged my feet, I stalled, I changed clothes a couple of times and finally settled for looking like someone’s grandmother at a funeral—with legs, since I foolishly selected my dormant black skirt which kept riding up my thighs all night while I sat for hours, alternately tugging at my skirt and picking at my vegetarian lasagna.
I did see Preston and Janice Smith, neither looking any older than they had at our 30th, and Diana and Bill Pine were there to offer me a seat at their table, thank heavens. Diana reminded me that she had attended Catholic school up until high school, so she hadn’t known many people, either. Yet she did manage to find, throughout the evening, a number of people who remembered her. Not so, me. No one ever approached me and the one person I did try to connect with made it clear he had no memory of sitting in Mr. Campbell’s U.S. History class for 180 school days, talking nonstop to me about whatever caught his fancy. He sat behind me. I was an ear to him; my name and face were meaningless.
Maybe high school reunions aren’t for everyone. Maybe high school reunions are for those folks who felt connected to the—I began to say “institution,” but let’s just say “organization”—of high school… the athletes, the band and theater kids, the ones who participated in student government… those who were invested in school beyond academics. My experience was nothing like this. My daily plan back then was to get home as soon as possible after school, before one more boy made one more crude remark on the bus or one more snotty chick asked me why Dennis and I were still together or the neighbor girl offered to sell me drugs one more time and I had to stammer out “No thank you” again.
I want to say that I felt safe at home, but only when my Wicked Step-father wasn’t there.
I went to school because I had to, but I was never comfortable there. I was a sojourner in a place where I didn’t belong.
When this epiphany came to me last night, I was deeply entranced, juggling a thousand thoughts, as writers will do, and I suddenly awoke to realize I’d been placing forkful after forkful of the sickeningly sweet dessert in my mouth. At that point, I knew it was time to head home, back to the mountain, where I do, at long last, feel safe.