Candace Karu

High School Reunion: The Prequel

Candace9 Comments

Thomas Wolfe said: "You can't go home again." Next week I plan to find out if that's true.

cpkhs1My first day of high school. No wonder they stuffed me on top of my locker.

High school. Often referred to as the best years of your life. I might buy into that theory if the best things that ever happened to me were being stuffed on top of my locker on the first day of high school. Or being repeatedly suspended for dress code violations. Or being bone-achingly bored for weeks and months on end. Or being the lone flower child in a sea of card-carrying, Villager, Ladybug and Papagallo wearing, perfect hair, teeth, and skin sporting prepsters. No, I'm going to have to disagree.

They were not the best years of my life. Not. At. All.

But, since those years obviously didn't kill me (though there were times that the prospect of death looked like an appealing alternative), they almost certainly made me stronger. And I did develop a small coterie of fast friends, who, like me, dwelt on the periphery of the social core. We were members of the Latin Club (Really? The Latin Club? Could we have been any nerdier?) rather than cheerleaders. Instead of going to dances or football games, we watched The Carol Burnett Show and Love American Style while babysitting on weekend nights.

loveamericanstyle

At least that's how I started out -- miserable and marginalized. By the time Junior year rolled around, I had my first real date, then my first boyfriend. I started to come into my own. Make no mistake, my own was, at best, quirky and sardonic. In the span of four short years, I morphed from irredeemable geek to sarcastic free-spirit. While the popular girls roamed the halls in packs, heads bent in whispered conversation, enveloped in a cloud of Enjolie, Windsong and Charlie, I sat alone, shielded by attitude, anger, and the lingering scent of patchouli. My ultimate validation came in my Senior year when I was voted "Most Individualistic,"  generally accepted to mean "Your 'otherness' frightens us, but we nonetheless find you oddly intriguing." Still it was a grudging acknowledgement that finally I was someone, a force, if not to be reckoned with, at least to be recognized.

woodstock

In the end, I managed to take all the rejection and adolescent angst and turn it to my advantage. At the dawning of the Age of Aquarius I was perfectly poised to join the hoards of groovy young people who were rejecting the status quo. The Woodstock nation, not the Junior U.N., was my government model.  In my world, flower power replaced football. I didn't need to be voted into the Keyettes, I was otherwise occupied smoking the occasional joint or sneaking into the Cellar Door to catch acts like Richie Havens or Linda Ronstadt. The zeitgeist had shifted and by the time I left high school, I was, well, kind of cool.

richiehavens

Out of the blue, a few weeks ago, my sister, my older-by-three-years, beautiful, Sweetheart Queen, Most Popular, loved-by-the-masses sister called to tell me there was a reunion afoot. Not exactly a formal reunion, but a gathering of those from her class who were celebrating their 60th birthday year. They were staging the gathering at a local church that, in a time long ago, hosted Saturday night dances (yup, the ones I was never invited to...those dances), and were including members of the surrounding classes as well. She asked me to go as her date.

rpmhs21Bobbe Pilk - Most Popular

And because, in my old age, I've turned into a bit of an adrenaline junkie, I said yes. Like many of my fellow Baby Boomers, the idea of a reunion strikes fear, and just a frisson of anticipation, in my heart. I'm reasonably certain I won't get unceremoniously dumped into a corner by a wandering band of hoods, but am I leaving myself open for social rejection almost 40 years later? And do I care? What do I expect to find? Who will I reconnect with?

Find out after I return...