Friday, September 23, 2016

The 299th Post: 1997 Called. It wants its Doc Martens back.

I graduated from high school in 1997. Of course this means that my 20th reunion is fast approaching. I've never been to a reunion before so I have no idea how reunions actually work. Here's what movies have taught me:
  1. The reunion will take place at the high school and have an open bar despite the fact that most high schools have zero tolerance policies.
  2. The mean girls will finally get their just desserts (or whatever awkward, old-timey phrase you'd like to use) at the hands of the class weirdos or outcasts who are now wildly successful and amazing. Of course, the weirdos were always amazing and now everyone knows it.
  3. The mean girls will also be married to their high school sweethearts and have lots of babies. They're all unhappy and drink lots of chardonnay (white for rich, bored, white women). The husbands are douche-y and will try hard to hook up with a former classmate for no apparent reason.
  4. The outcasts/weirdos are single and awesome but at least one of them (maybe more) secretly hopes to reconnect with their crush from high school and run off together. This is despite the fact that the high school crush is an incredibly disappointing human being. And PS, he probably always was.
  5. You will be judged for everything even if you're a normal person, living your best life.
  6. At some point, a random assassin will follow one of your classmates to the reunion and said classmate will kill the assassin with a ballpoint pen given to him by another classmate who is now a successful banker or real estate agent (or some other profession that your 17 year old self would find depressing). You will help your classmate move the body to the boiler room and then come to terms with the fact that your classmate is also an assassin and drink more to dull the fact you just witnessed someone being murdered by a ballpoint pen. 
  7. You'll then realize that your high school has a boiler room and become convinced that Freddy Krueger lives there and you're terrified he will now haunt your dreams. (This did not happen in any movie about a high school reunion; Freddy Krueger will always terrify me.)
  8. Hugh Grant will appear because he's actually a washed up pop star in real life now and he'll sing passably amusing songs to classmates while dancing in a way that makes you believe that he's about to break a hip. 
  9. If you don't live anywhere near where you went to high school and you've come to town expressly for the reunion, you'll drive around looking at all the things that have changed since you left. Like how your childhood home is now a convenience store that the now dead assassin is about to blow up in an attempt to assassinate you. (This happened prior to his death by ballpoint pen.)
  10. At the end of the night, you will lead the entire reunion in a choreographed dance that is flawless and everyone loves you and crowns you Queen/King of the reunion (or whatever title there is) and your high school experience finally makes sense.
 (Guess what movies I really like?)

I didn't grow up in Burke, VA where I attended high school. My family moved to the area when I was in the seventh grade. Lots of my classmates had been in school together since kindergarten but thankfully, this area is where the military and government is so many of classmates were like me and came to Burke at some point during our high school years. I didn't hate high school but I didn't love it either. Most people didn't like high school or if they did, they went to one of those magical high schools where everyone gets along and there are no cliques and the most popular boy in school dates the art girl. The mascot is also a unicorn and everyone has perfect hair. This place does not exist. My high school was big; my graduating class had 600 people in it. I was a theatre kid and I understood how high school worked (thank you John Hughes) so I stuck to my people. My favorite memories from high school involve my theatre family; they were good people then and they're good people now. Through the wonders of Facebook, I keep in touch with many of them. They're leading cool, interesting lives. It makes me happy.

My parents didn't return to Burke when the Army brought them back to Burke before my dad retired. They live about 45 minutes south of Burke now and I live in Arlington so none of us have spent that much time in Burke for the last say, 15 years. All of that changed this summer. My mom injured her ankle pretty severely and is staying at a physical therapy center in Burke. It happens to be directly across from our old neighborhood. I drive past my high school on the way to visit her at least 2-3 times per week. I've spent more time in Burke in the last six weeks thank I have since I graduated from high school. It's weird to be back. It's made weirder still by the fact that the big '17 is up by the football field. It's a constant reminder that I'm old.

Yes, this is the photo of the '97 from my yearbook. Yes, I have my senior yearbook just lying around.

I assume that my extended time in Burke this summer/fall is life's way of reminding me of the passage of time or the good things from my teen years. I've enjoyed dining at all the restaurants we used to go to back in the day. (Reminder: you can only use the phrase "back in the day" if you're over 25.) The owners at Spartans still remember my parents despite the fact they haven't regularly dined there since 1998. It's comforting in some ways. Some things change but just as many stay exactly the same.

My high school looks much like it did when I went there, at least from the outside. In addition to the senior class year sign, the bruin is still greeting everyone. I assume he's only made of paint now, layers and layers of paint. The LBT sign is there too. That sign went up during my tenure as theater Business Manager. I spent many an afternoon putting up the sign and organizing the letters. We never seemed to have enough of certain letters like "I" and "R." Anytime I see the guy changing the movies at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse, I think back to my sign days and feel a little bad for him.

A few weeks ago I was at a concert (Cheap Trick, Joan Jett & Heart - Joan Jett was terrible, the other two rocked it) with Anita, one of my friends from high school. Actually, Anita was one of my first friends when I started at our school in seventh grade. Anyway, she asked me if I wanted to be added to the 20th reunion Facebook page. Apparently, that's how reunions are organized now. I told her to add me to the group. So far the only suggestion that I hope doesn't happen is that the reunion has the same theme as our prom. The theme was "In Your Wildest Dreams." (I had to look it up; I didn't just know that.) Why was our prom theme a Moody Blues song? It was 1997; we couldn't have come up with anything else? Maybe a better theme would be "My Mom Threw Away My Doc Martens & Other Things That Make Me Long for 1997." It's more realistic and probably more in line with what most of us feel about our high school years. My mom may have thrown away my Doc Martens; this is a point of contention between us and has been since 1998. She thinks I took them to college with me and someone either borrowed them or I lost them. I'm not sure how one loses shoes but this is probably an argument I will never win.

Anyway, I think we should skip repeating our prom theme and make the reunion exactly like what I did for Homecoming that year. Instead of going to the dance, my friends and I decided to dress up (in Homecoming appropriate dresses) and go bowling. Yep, we went to dinner first and then went to Bowl America. After bowling we ended up at one of our houses to watch movies. I believe they were Molly Ringwald movies but my memory isn't that great. That sounds like a super fun reunion to me. We can all get dressed, no one needs to wear uncomfortable shoes, and it's so much fun. Bowling also involves alcohol, junk food, and the possibly of making poor life choices - everything a reunion needs.

Get planning, reunion committee. There's a reunion committee right? 

You're welcome.

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