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My 50th high school reunion has come and gone. It began exactly as I had feared. Wavering between attending or not, I finally decided to go despite my memories of being invisible to most of my classmates.
Checking into the dinner dance, my husband and I stopped for our name tags. Everyone's was there. Ours weren't.
"Did you pay?" asked the classmate distributing the name tags.
Smiling sweetly, but feeling uneasy, I said, "Yes, months ago."
"No problem then," he said. "Come with me." Rifling through more boxes, he said, "Hmm, let me see," as he scratched his head. By this point, I was fighting panic and my smile had long since wilted.
"Well, they don't seem to be here, but no problem. I'll fix some right now."
"Thanks," I said weakly. I was different once again. With our homemade name tags firmly affixed, my husband Bob and I entered the fray and before my doldrums grew deeper, things began to look up.
"Hi Wanda. We've been looking for you."
"You have?" I brightened. Scanning their name tags and faces though, I realized I recognized neither of the two women in front of me.
"Do you remember us?"
"I don't. Sorry."
"We sat in class together and always had so much fun," the first said.
"Yeah. You were such a riot," said the second.
"We sat in the back. Ms. Crawford always gave us dirty looks," said No. 1.
"Yep. Mean old lady that she was," said No. 2 with a giggle.
"I don't remember Ms. Crawford. What class was this?" I asked.
"Choir," they answered in unison.
"Choir? I was never in choir. I can't sing," I stammered deflating everyone's bubble.
"Oh, we must be thinking of someone else. I felt certain her name was Wanda," the first said, scanning the crowd for my replacement.
No. 2 leaned closer, put her hand on my arm and, in a manner way too familiar, said, "Did you have a gap between your front teeth in high school?"
Taken aback, wondering who would ask such a question, I said, "No" and turned to find myself facing Peter Lane, a boy who had pursued me in high school. He still was red-headed, still disheveled and still not a man of interest. He introduced me to his wife, coincidentally, another Wanda Lane. I wondered (vainly) if his choice of Wanda was influenced by me.
As my husband and I strolled the room reading name tags and looking at faces, a voice behind me said, "I remember you." Turning, I faced a man with no familiarity to me. Even reading his name tag, I couldn't put two and two together.
"I think we sat next to each other in homeroom," he said, and then I knew. Al was my first high school crush. For the record, I sat behind him in homeroom and he would sometimes turn to flirt with me. I recalled his mouth full of braces, his blue eyes with heavy lashes, and his head full of dark hair. Now, his teeth were less-than-white, his eyes obscured by thick glasses, and his bald head ringed by a gray fringe.
During the evening, I reconnected with my ninth grade science partner whom I had totally forgotten. I always thought she had a funny little mouth, and although much else had changed, it was by her funny little mouth that I recognized her. Diane, the president of my sorority, was there. Still tall, lithe, beautiful and poised.
Barbara, the little mother in high school, said she was coming, but didn't show up. Claudia of VW Beatle fame was easy to recognize, but I reverted to temerity and didn't approach her. On a sad note, I learned that Lee, my date for the prom, had died. I barely knew him and yet I was saddened by the news. In all, 81 out of my class of 650 were dead.
Ultimately, my decision to attend the reunion was a combination of the once-in-a-lifetime nature of a 50th celebration and basic curiosity. A part of me also wanted to check the accuracy of my memories. I now think my memories of high school were somewhat skewed as the reunion turned out not to be traumatic, and more of my classmates approached me than the other way around. If I didn't have the skills in high school to navigate the social scene, I must have acquired them in the 50 years since as I found my niche among those assembled and moved easily within it.
Toward the end of the evening, a clipboard was passed around asking if we wanted to attend another reunion in five years. My answer was no as my curiosity had been satisfied. I had proven to myself that you can get over high school.