20 Years After


My 20th High School Reunion has come and gone, and I survived to tell the tale.

Other than serving as a constant reminder that I truly am that old (although as a point of pride, I was carded at the event last night… this baby face still has it!), I didn’t really expect much from it.  In fact, I had no plans to attend.  Were it not for one of my friends I hadn’t seen in years requesting we meet up, I would have stayed home both nights, determined to finish my book while succumbing to the temptation of starting up my Playstation.

But I did go out, and the first night was just as awkward as I thought it would be.  Few remembered me, and those who did, I often couldn’t recall who they were.  On the rare occasion we knew who each other were, our conversations were brief and fell into awkward silence that was drowned out by more boisterous (read: drunk) members of the party.

I expected all this.  It was, after all, my primary reason for not wishing to attend in the first place.  What I didn’t anticipate was that I’d not only have fun, but I’d learn a few things about myself in the process:

*For those of us who were socially inept in high school, it’s a common idea that if we could only go back in time and redo it all with our current personality/confidence, it’d be so much different.  I know I assumed that for years.  And yet there I was, given the perfect opportunity to strut the new and improved me, and I resorted to being a timid wallflower, an observer and not a participant.  My out-of-town friend is Mr. Charisma and knows everyone, and I stuck to him that first night like a shadow afraid to be swallowed by the night.  I talked to people who probably never even noticed me in high school, joked and laughed with them.  Then the next night, when he wasn’t there, I’m not sure they recognized me.

And I’m okay with that.  It’s who I am.  It’s my safe zone.  My friends know I can be boisterous and joke, that I have a fairly quick wit (well, I like to think so anyway), and can say and do some rather crazy things.  I have a rather dry, sardonic sense of humor that doesn’t often play well in casual conversation, and it shuts down altogether in a group setting.  This is who I’ve always been.  And if that’s how people remember me, I did nothing to tarnish that legacy over the past two nights.

*I consider myself an observer, interested in studying characters.  I like to figure people out from a distance, try to piece together their story.  Yet I was approached by a fellow classmate last night who sort of turned all that on its head for me.

First of all, I wouldn’t have recognized him in a lineup.  Unlike some of my classmates, he had shed his teen face and adopted one of a man.  So when he approached me, I was already at a disadvantage for not recognizing him.  But that was only the beginning.

He proceeded to tell me all about myself.  Or rather, what could be gleamed from Facebook, this blog, and other social media outlets.  He knew I was a writer, had a daughter, was recently divorced, etc.  All I could tell him about his current life was his picture was that of a chicken.

What I didn’t tell him I was as shocked and amazed he remembered me after all these years as I was he even talked to me in high school.  I was even surprised when he accepted my friend request on Facebook.  He was outgoing and on a completely separate strata of popularity than I was.  It just so happened we were masters of the keyboard, and so we were placed together in a situation where we had ample time to joke and talk, while the sound of the other kids pecking away at their keyboards in an effort to catch up served as the backbeat to our conversation.

He remembered things about me I couldn’t quite recall, like the fact I had borrowed his Beatles albums, then returned them to his father (I actually remember this now, but had it been on a quiz prior to last night, I probably would have responded by writing random words in German).  He’d met me at a time when I was obsessed with ELO, and he was responsible for opening my eyes to The Beatles (that is something I’ve never forgotten).  And I introduced him to Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Not exactly equal, but it’s nice to know I had some manner of impact on his life.

So there he was, able to tell me all manner of things about myself, and I had nothing in return for him.  He told me of his wood bending business, how he had studied law and found it just wasn’t him.  He pointed out his wife on the dance floor, and gave me a brief back story to how they’d met.  It was loud and smoky and not the perfect place for a conversation, but I learned a lot about him in a short period of time.  Even better, he gave me a website so I could do a little investigation on my own (www.shop17mareisland.com).

Within minutes of looking at the site, I knew much more about him.  He has a beautiful baby girl, and of course, a lovely wife who attended the reunion with him.  And it turns out he’s an artist in the purest sense, and he channels that art through creating chairs that are not only beautiful, but sustainable.  It’s a wonderful site, and I highly recommend checking it out.

For all my sitting back and watching the world pass me by as I write their stories in my mind, it’s good to be reminded these are people out there, with rich, complicated back stories I couldn’t possibly hope to create all on my own.

*I learned that people know me as an author.  It’s strange considering I spend 40+ hours a week doing something completely different, and very little time in comparison writing, but I was approached by several people asking me about my books.  Which is when I also learned I need to step it up and promote myself better.  Telling everyone I write about stuff and things is no way to drum up interest.  I suppose this is why successful people have promoters (or their own innate charisma).

*Lastly, I want to point out that not one person asked if I was related to John Madden.  However, several people mentioned the Steve Madden shoe company.  So that’s progress.  Perhaps at their next reunion, people will be asking them if they’re related to S.L. Madden.

Or perhaps not.

Thanks for reading, and a very special thanks to everyone who put the shindig together, and all of those who made me feel welcome there, even when it was clear I was completely out of place.  I had a lovely time and look forward to seeing you all again in a decade or so.

 

S.L. Madden

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