Sometimes you have to go back to where you were to see how far you've come.
"Let's ask that man with the three rat dogs if he knows the way," I suggested.
"Yeah, you can get there, but it won't be easy," he told us in his thick New Jersey accent.
Ten minutes later we stood at the door of our former classmate's home. Should we knock or just walk in? Heart pounding, I swallowed hard and pushed the door open. I saw two vaguely familiar women deep in conversation. With trembling hands, I put my nametag on.
Any trepidation I felt was quickly eased when someone shoved a frozen margarita in my hand. The party had begun.
As in any high school, we had various cliques: the cheerleaders, the Hispanics, the popular girls, the geeks, the study nerds, the athletes, and the floaters. I suppose I was a floater, a bad girl who didn't fit into the other categories. After 30 years, the barriers between the groups have blurred. We are all women now, with 30 years of life between us as we are and us as we were. Hostilities are forgotten. Kindnesses are remembered. Respect is the order of the day.
My 30th high school reunion, which many people thought I was brave or stupid or both to attend, was a highly emotional experience as I was reunited with women I believed I would never see or speak to again. There were 68 of us bright young things in the Class of 77. We terrorised the nuns at our small all-girl Catholic high school because when we did things we did them in concert. Even the good girls. We were guilty of lots of things, but looking back at our yearbook, our biggest crime was one of fashion. Lots of stripey tops and dresses. Questionable hairstyles. Wide-legged, high-waisted trousers made of polyester that wouldn't melt in a fire.
One of us has died, in a motorcycle accident. One of us is a widow raising an 8-year-old on her own. One of us is still trying to get pregnant with the last egg in her ovaries. Two of us are grandmothers. A few of us have gone through or are going through menopause. Many of us are mothers. Some of us have lost one or both parents. About 20-30 percent have been divorced. That same percentage or more have been married 20 or more years. Two or three have never married. No serious disease that I know of (e.g. cancer) has struck any of us. At 47-48 we are at a good place in our lives: still healthy, many with grown children, the struggles of the past resolved.
On Friday night we gathered at our former classmate's lovely home. My friend and I were late because we'd fallen asleep after drinking a couple of beers in the afternoon when we got to the beach. We'd talked and talked and then slept and slept. About 40 women showed up at the party, including the two women I thought I'd never see again. Six of us went back to my friend's beach house and proceeded to stay up and talk and talk and talk. The next morning we got up early. My friend made bacon and eggs and we all talked and talked and talked. Cliques represented were athletes, cheerleaders, Hispanics, and floaters. By afternoon, my cheeks hurt from so much talking and laughing.
That night we were to meet at a local restaurant for drinks and food. Husbands and partners were invited to this event. Those of us on our own commandeered one table, from which I never left the entire evening. Others would drop by the table for a chat, some introduced their husbands. But the husbands and partners were mostly left to their own devices. The only sour note of the whole event was a drunken guy from the boys' school who crashed the party. In high school he'd dated one of our girls. She spent the night hiding from him. He thought it would be cute and clever to tell my friend what her drunken ex-husband has to say about her. It wasn't. I tried to tell him to shut up about the ex, in the nicest way I could muster. But drunks don't listen. We all scattered at the end, forgetting to tell each other goodbye in an effort to escape the drunk. But we have plans: a cruise to the Bahamas to echo our senior cruise (during which we ran riot through the ship, causing the nuns all sorts of heartache), and a joint 50th birthday party.
It all went too quickly. I wanted to stay and talk and talk some more. We've calmed down a lot, which is a good thing because otherwise we'd be dead. No more sex, drugs, and rock n' roll. Our eyesight is going. Our hearing's kaput. Drugs are illegal and sex is very risky. It's a different world for our children. And we want to keep it that way.