I ran into a classmate I hadn’t seen in maybe 15 years at the pet store where I was stocking up on cat food prior to an impending snow/ice storm. The last thing you want to do is run out of food and be snowed in with your cats. They love you, but if push comes to shove, they’ll eat you. Don’t let their cute little faces fool you.
So, anyway, I’ve been planning our 20th Class Reunion for this year and trying to track down current addresses for class members. When I saw her, I was super excited because I didn’t know how to reach her easily since she wasn’t on social media (good for her, BTW).
When I asked her if she had any interest in coming to the reunion, she immediately said, “NO. I don’t do anything with that school. NO…no.”
I laughed a little and with my hands up defensively said, “Ok! Understood.”
I went to turn my cart around and she said, “Nobody liked me then so I don’t have any desire to hang out with them now.”
To which I replied, “Oh, I get it. Definitely. Nobody liked me either. You too, for that matter.” All of this was said with a grin and no attack in my voice. But it was true.
“Oh! That’s not true! I just didn’t really talk to anybody,” she said, laughing.
When we checked out, she teased me for holding up the line fumbling for my debit card and I told her to let me know if she changed her mind about the reunion. That was it.
But as I drove home, I thought about our high school experience and how they had apparently been similar. What was very odd to me was that she wasn’t nice to me in school. While she might not have talked to me much, the only things I ever heard come out of her mouth were snide, snarky and intimidating. I always saw her as one of the many “mean girls” who made my day-to-day struggle through school so nerve racking. It turns out that she might have felt just as I had and her defense was to come off bitchy and mean, while mine was to cower and stay silent. It made me wonder if all the people who were nasty to me in school, and seemingly nasty to this pet-store-shopping classmate, were only that way because they had someone above them making them feel just as terrible. I’d say the answer is probably yes.
Does it make any of it right? No, absolutely not. Is it indicative of the age group we’re talking about? Yeah, unfortunately. But that doesn’t have to be the case either. There were plenty of good people in our class, and plenty that didn’t feel like they had to lash out to keep from getting shoved to the bottom, some of which I chose to ask for help in planning this reunion.
As to why I was able to put aside my memories of torment and my long-lost classmate was not, I feel like that is a personal choice. It takes effort and an unpacking of some yucky baggage. I totally get why she feels the way she does, and why she might have opted to NOT forgive the way she was treated by our peers. I choose to believe that everyone should be given the opportunity to prove that they’ve grown up. As for adults who still behave like they’re in high school, ain’t nobody got time for that.
Getting older is inevitable, maturity is not. It seems a bit sad when maturity catches up with age and there is no longer denying the fact that……. I’m getting older. In fact, I can remember my parents being my age. What happened?
I remember when I started watching the news instead of cartoons in the morning. I stubbornly held on to my childhood routine well into my twenties. It was when I took a new job that I began watching the news for the weather report. My commute one way to and from work went from five minutes to forty-five and I wanted to be prepared. What happened to living by the seat of my pants? What happened to rash decision making? Why did I agree to take a job with such a long commute? I wanted the experience but I mostly wanted more money. No twenty-something can resist the allure of more money.
My list of items I buy with money has certainly changed in fifteen years. When I was a twenty-something, I bought a video game system with some extra money (yeah, what’s that, right?) I had acquired. More recently, I had a conversation with my husband before our ten year anniversary. We were talking about what we would like to do to celebrate our anniversary. I said, “If I had a choice between spending a night away and replacing the kitchen carpet with flooring I can actually clean, give me the flooring!!” I wondered if I had hit my head. That’s what I said and I meant it. Yes, we have been dreaming of a night away from home forever…… one good night’s sleep, a quiet room…… and it sounded dreamy but being able to actually clean my kitchen floor sounded even more exciting. Our anniversary was almost three months ago and we haven’t been out to celebrate. And no, I don’t have a new floor. It seems as if that newly acquired money hasn’t made its arrival. Instead we gave each other a card and winked as we passed each other in the bathroom. That’s real excitement and I have been having plenty of it. I was excited to get my mail and find coupons from the local grocery store, I got 20% more of my favorite cereal in this last box, my mom gave me some clothes she could no longer wear, and (drum-roll, please) I found another box of panty liners in my cupboard that I forgot I had. “Oh yeah!”
Despite the obvious change in the things I get excited about, I still feel like I have recently graduated from high school. Over fifteen years span between my imagination and reality. I don’t feel old enough to have four kids and it scares me to think that I am shaping their childhood when I feel like I am not that far away from my own. My parents and every other “old” person was right when they told me that life moves too fast. Now I am that “old” person saying the same to my kids. Guess what? They are giving me same look I gave my parents when they offered advice. It’s that face that says, “Ummmmm, okay Mom….”
So I have resigned to the fact that I’m now “old.” The only comfort I have in the fact that I will be forty in five short years is knowing my husband will be fifty in six (sorry babe). I like the news for more than just the weather, I get nervous thinking about those roller coasters I once loved, I don’t like it when my kids climb too high in a tree, I’d rather watch a movie at home, I have a hard time recovering from a night where I was awake past midnight, and many more truths I can’t quite admit…… just yet……. Life definitely gets better with age, it’s too bad those “darn kids” don’t realize it.
PS – My favorite cereal is Lucky Charms and I still insist on putting chocolate syrup in my white milk. I’m stubbornly sticking to those habits, for now…..
Reply by ~L~
*d*, I can’t even tell you how often I think about this same Twilight Zone feeling. I don’t feel like I’m an adult. I wonder sometimes when or if I ever will. Maybe that’s another reason, on my long list, why I don’t have kids. For the same reason as you state above! I’m not in any shape to be teaching someone else how to live! Eeek! Frightening.
Do you remember playing in the tub as a kid? The goal of a bath was not to get clean but to play until the skin on your feet and hands got wrinkly. Do you remember picking scabs, counting bruises, jumping off the couch, or on the bed? How about spending who knows how much time figuring out all the quirky little things our little bodies could do? This entailed sitting cross-legged with both feet on top of the thighs, trying to do a handstand or a somersault, and climbing trees as high as possible until mom got nervous. I remember riding in the car hoping to see a mirage on the road, wishing we would drive over a large hill, and surfing the wind with my hand when the windows were down. It didn’t matter how much time was wasted swinging at the park, talking to friends, or playing basketball because there seemed to be an endless amount of time to grow up.
As an adult, time seems more limited and it’s hard picking a pointless task to spend our precious time pursuing. I find it hard to spend too much time playing make believe with my kids because there are piles of laundry waiting to be washed, dirty dishes in the sink, and dinner always needs to be made. It’s a shame because my kids will grow too fast and there is a quickly fading window of opportunity to have kid-fueled adventures.
Days after my son was diagnosed, I was crying to my mom on the phone. I told her that I felt like I would never be able to move forward and enjoy being a mom again. She gave me what seemed to be odd but simple advice. “Next time he takes a bath, put on your bathing suit and take it with him. Put a bunch of bubbles in the bath and play.” She gave no explanation and I wondered if she truly realized the magnitude of what I was telling her. How would this make my broken heart feel any better? I didn’t really want to do it but I knew my mom, she would make sure I did as she asked so that evening we drew him his bath and filled it full of bubbles. I put on an old pair of shorts and a tank top and sat with him in the tub. He was only three months old, so I sat him on my knee and put the bubbles on his little nose and in his hair. His older brother stood at the edge of the tub and played with the bubbles as well. My oldest thought the notion of mommy in the tub with her clothes on and covered in bubbles was too funny. I began to smile again. In the middle of the bubble filled tub, I was reminded that my newly diagnosed son was the same boy he was before we learned of his diagnosis. He needed all the things he had before, especially the best of his mommy.
The few minutes I spent acting like a kid didn’t solve our problems. There are days I fret and I have had many more tear-filled conversations with my mom. What it did do is remove me briefly from the fast-paced world of adulthood and remind me of why it is such a joy to have children. My kids are oblivious to the responsibilities of adulthood, as they should be, but I cannot be oblivious to their childhood. My children need me to be an adult but they also need me to understand what it’s like to be a child and for that, I sometimes need to act like a kid. I need to let the laundry, dishes, and dinner wait so I can let my kids, and myself know just how fun it is to be a kid.
So, if you are reading this post, here is my challenge to you: go be a kid. Do it. Blow bubbles, find a park and swing (make sure you lean back as far as you can on the way forward so it looks like your feet are touching the sky and say, “I’m flying!”), run up a slide, hop from one piece of living room furniture to the other pretending the floor is lava, color (on your stomach and on the floor), make a blanket fort, or draw yourself and bath with way too many bubbles. Yes, adulthood is about maturity but it doesn’t mean all the fun of childhood should be lost. You will be amazed what a few moments away from adulthood will do for you. Make time for moments you will look back on and smile. So, go ahead, take a moment, be a kid.
Last week, I had probably the weirdest reunion since the time when I found myself unwittingly participating in an awkward situation in-the-making at an after-bar party thrown by a third-tier friend and his roommate. I didn’t find out until I got in the door that the roommate everyone had been referring to as Bill (not his name, but you’ll get the point) was actually the guy I’d lost my virginity to and dated for a year and eight months as a fifteen to sixteen-year-old. I’d known him as William (again, not his name, but you see what I mean). I’d dumped him over the phone in a screaming rage when I found out about a series of lies he’d been telling me for our entire relationship. If the fact that he lied to me doesn’t make my method seem any less harsh, this was also the previously mentioned boyfriend in Filling In The Blank with the slicked back hair, tiny pony tail, and an uncle in the Chicago Mafia. See, he totally deserved it. Oddly enough, the last time I’d seen him was when he started hanging out with an ex of mine that I was still semi-friends with. The Jenga Game of guys doesn’t end there. I went to said Ex’s apartment with my Current Boyfriend to give him some of Current Boyfriend’s ugly old furniture. Tiny Ponytail was there, much to my shock. It turns out that things I had revealed to Ex Boyfriend were not kept confidential due to our semi-friend status and Tiny Ponytail knew about some things I didn’t want him to know about. Let’s just say, we both had reasons to break up with each other. He wasn’t necessarily mad, but he definitely wanted me to know that he knew.
You can imagine the awkwardness of being in his apartment and seeing him again after somewhere around seven years. Well, it actually turned out okay because we said hello and acknowledged how weird the situation was. It’s a good example of how time heals wounds. We’re definitely not besties, but anytime I see him, I say hello with a smile and he does the same. But, I digress.
My point is, I had another similar experience while out to eat with my mom at the local buffet. We were seated in a remote corner (just where I like to be) when this guy and his wife were seated a booth behind my mom. I’d had a huge crush on the guy when I was a tween and teenager when he’d been our neighbor. Captain Crush had always known it, too, and liked to tease me relentlessly. Ever since he’d gotten married, he’d been very leery of making eye contact with me when we ran into each other, let alone small talk. I’ve always sensed a tight leash was present, though I’ve no proof of that. I signaled to Mom that he was behind us and she turned around and said hello and I waved and it was all rainbows and unicorns. His wife even smiled at us. Then things got exponentially weirder.
While at the buffet, I looked through the steamed-up sneeze guard and saw the guy who first kissed me when I was thirteen. He was eighteen at the time. In hindsight, that probably was more disturbing than I found it when it happened. That first kiss ignited an infatuation that had been kindling for the previous two years. I was a giddy mess anytime I was around him and my friends and I mooned over him like he was Mark-Paul Gosselaar or Scott Baio (What? Am I the only one who thought Charles in Charge was a hottie?) First Kiss had long hair and was about six-three. I thought he was so smart and wise and the best kisser I’d ever…well, he was the only kisser I knew of at the time. He made me so nervous I would shake sometimes.
I would say that seeing him through the glass gave me that same giddy trembling, but honestly, I’d traded that in for a strong distaste for him. I’d seen First Kiss over the years and he’d always been hopeful that something would happen between us that was beyond friendship. Unfortunately for him, as I was nearing the end of my teen years, I was also realizing that his status as legend in my mind was fading. So, over the last twenty years when I’ve been around him, I’ve seen the truth. Where I’d once seen intelligence and wisdom, I now saw pretentiousness. His long hair was long gone and his height was no longer attractive as he’d stand before me, smoking cigs and pontificating about life. Another gem I unearthed during the last time I’d associated with him was that he had nearly no boundaries. He started calling me at work asking me to bring him cigarettes. When I got a new job in a customer service call center, First Kiss called there and when I wouldn’t answer my desk phone, he had them page me so he could talk about pretty much nothing. I was afraid his nonsense was going to cost me my job. I told my mom about it and she called him up and told him to stay away from me. And that was the end of our contact until I ran into him at a bar one night about three years later. I tried to talk to him but conversing with someone so egocentric is difficult at best. I cut my night short just to get away from him.
Then, there he was at the buffet. I managed to dodge him and scurried back toward my table. I stopped at the booth where Captain Crush sat and said through gritted teeth, “First Kiss is here!”
Captain Crush busted out laughing and said his wife had just pointed that out!
As I sat down with Mom, I realized that First Kiss was actually sitting directly behind Captain Crush, facing me. I tried hard to keep mom’s head between him and me.
You might wonder how all of this is related. Or maybe not. But I’m going to tell you anyway.
First Kiss and Captain Crush were good friends in high school. Our neighbor, C. Crush, brought First Kiss around when they were sixteen. They liked flirting with my mom because she’d been a nude model and was a bizarre type of local celebrity for appearing in a girly magazine. I was smitten with both boys. For all of us to be seated in the same fifty square feet, after all those years, was a little Twilight Zonish for me.
What was truly unsettling was when we finally decided to reveal our presence to First Kiss. He came over and began the most awkward conversation I’ve had in quite some time. Maybe ever. If uncomfortableness was measured in plates of food, then I had eaten every last thing on that buffet. I won’t go into what he said because that’s not important. It’s the realization that matters. I’ve known for a long time that he wasn’t the guy I imagined him to be as a thirteen-year-old. It’s incredible though, just how far he’d fallen from that pedestal. And it isn’t just my perception of him that tumbled. It’s very much a reality. He’s like so many teen heartthrobs who fall out of favor, start spiraling downward, dabble in drugs and alcohol, suffer from poor physical health, poor mental health, and have no friends. I felt bad for him, even as I wanted to get up and leave. Quickly.
It wasn’t just him either. Captain Crush packed on the pounds and though he still has a baby face, it’s that of a much hairier, much fatter baby.
I know for a fact that Mom is no longer the stuff teen boys shut themselves in the bathroom for and that I fell off my own pedestal a long time ago. I’m pretty sure the thing is actually on top of me, I’m so far removed from the heights of young, thin and busty. It happens to everybody eventually. Youth is one of those things you never fully appreciate while you have it. You spend the rest of your life remembering it, sometimes grabbing at it, but almost always realizing you’re better off now than living amongst a bunch of distorted legends.
I wrote a coming-of-age novel about guy and a girl who become best friends in elementary school but are ripped apart in high school by their very different personalities, outlooks, and plans for the future. Losing friends from your childhood is a normal, albeit sad, part of growing up. There’s a lot of gut wrenching scenes where they cut each other down while trying to protect their own feelings. It’s these fights that help drive the two characters apart.
It turns out, when you’re in your thirties, friends slip quietly away. There isn’t usually screaming or even scowls because it happens as subtly as time flying by, and everyone is so exhausted by life that even if they notice, they don’t speak up to stop it. There are children, spouses, jobs, and life in general that seems to drown out so much of what used to be in the forefront.
I’m mindlessly surfing Facebook and see my pal—we’ll call her Trixie—posted pictures of her kids. It reminds me that I haven’t seen Trixie in weeks, no wait, months. Someone I assumed I would always be close to now feels almost like a stranger. Almost.
If it weren’t for those tidbits of conversation, the random hilarious picture comments, the echoes of who we used to be, the thin threads tethering us to one another might finally snap. But it’s these moments that remind me that our friendship isn’t based on time spent or interactions had, but the fact that even after months, we could sit down and laugh like no time had passed at all. We’ll always have a connection, even if the ties finally break and we drift so far apart that not even an off-color joke over the internet can pull us back together.
I guess that’s also what happens in my novel. I wrote about something I thought happened to other people. Not us. Trixie and I were solid. But the truth is people fade in and out of your life for any number of reasons. It doesn’t lessen their impact on your heart or their image silhouetted in the background of your mind. We’re all who we are partly because of the people in our lives, past and present. We shape each other and leave our marks and most times, our time together is fleeting. The truly meaningful relationships in our lives can fade, but they’re still there, waiting for a chance encounter, a long over-due phone call, to come out of the background and back into focus.
Reply by *d*
I had started my last post before you posted this one and it was so similar, I had to finish it. It is strange how we could be thinking along the same lines. It is sad to drift from friends but as you said, there is always time to reconnect and remember those good times. I am grateful for all my friends also, no matter when they drift in or out of life.