However, when my 10 year high school reunion was announced, my immediate reaction was a giant pit in my stomach. I didn't want to go. My cynical mood kicked in. I've stayed in touch with so many people over Facebook. I see my close high school friends all the time. Plus I'd have to drive back to Havasu and get a hotel because my parents don't live there anymore. UGH! Not to mention my recent divorce and who wants to put themselves through that questioning?!
I was going through all the reasons not to go with a friend one night and his response was pretty simple, "Yeah, but you don't know who is going to make it to the 20 year reunion. Life happens. Might as well see everyone now." Pretty straightforward and somewhat morbid logic but he had an excellent point. Done. I decided I was going. Although some apprehension still lingered, I coerced one of my good friends into going with me. Tickets were purchased, hotel was booked and PTO requested.
I'm incredibly grateful I did go. Not only was it fun, it was exactly what I needed to feel like Jen again. Here are my top 7 moments/memories from the reunion.
1. The Smell of the Football Field Grass.
I don't need to go into great detail, but we all know I've gone through a lot of changes lately. It is easy to get lost in the chaos of such huge life changes, especially when drowning in work. Your sense of self gets lost. It's disjointing and disorienting and I've been trying to find a catalyst to recenter me. All it took was the smell of grass.
When we showed up to the Homecoming football game at the high school, I took a moment to soak it all in. The huge mass of people, the lights, the floats, the oddly small marching band. It was so... high school. We walked in, laughing about the spray painted shields of armor on the ground that looked like sea turtles and scanned the crowd for the special Alumni section. A quick pause and suddenly, I was hit by the smell of the field. The very familiar smell of half-dead, torn up, cheaply painted grass.
I spent most of my high school years on that field and the simple smell of the grass made me feel very at home. I felt more like myself. Sure, ten years have gone by, but at the core, I'm still who I was back then and thank goodness for grass for reminding me.
2. Familiar Hugs.
At the bar the first night in town, we saw a lot of people. Havasu's not a big place so we ran into everyone who decided to have a Friday night out on the town. However, there were a few people whose hugs are so warm and familiar that they are almost healing (cheesy, I know, deal with it). One in particular was my friend Kat Quill, who I've known since the first grade. There was something about her hug that made everything seem happy, carefree and normal. Part of that is her amazingly positive personality, but another part stems from that homey feeling I've been looking for. Her hug set the pace for relaxing me for the rest of the weekend.
3. "That one time..." Stories.
This one actually deserves subcategories. Everyone loves reminiscing with old friends, but I'm not sure many people have stories like these.
"Your mom arrested me twice!" - Luke Hornburg Luke didn't graduate with us, but he's married to one of my friends that did and was friends with my older brother growing up. At the football game, upon spotting me, he decided to announce that not only did my mom arrest him twice, once was the day after he stayed the night at our house. Usually, when approached with "Your mom arrested me/gave me a ticket" stories, I roll my eyes and ask, "Well, did you do something wrong?" But Luke's blunt and unexpected delivery was so shocking that I couldn't help but laugh my ass off. He then continued to tell people all weekend about it. Outstanding.
Speaking of repeating stories: "Jen broke up with me over email!" - Hank Lawrence My friend Hank and I didn't really hang out a lot in high school despite the fact that our best friends dated the whole time (and are now married). This may be attributed to the truth in his story. Yes, I did break up with him over email when we were 14 years old. However, he clearly got over it because we're great friends now. Or so I thought... until he decided to tell every single person who came into the bar that I broke up with him via email. Awesome. Thanks, bud.
"Jen turned me gay when she turned down my marriage proposal in third grade." - Tommy Watanabe Tommy and I did that cute third grade "Do you love me? Check Yes or No" thing back in Mr. Tebo's class. We "kid" flirted and it was pure ridiculousness. Tommy then proposed to me and I crushed his soul by saying no and dumping him. Apparently, this turned him gay. Damnit.
"Jen's mom strip searched my mom." - Tommy Watanabe (again) This story is actually pretty incredible and is best told in Tommy's words here.
Apparently, I was best remembered for my poor break-up etiquette and my mom being a police officer. Not too shabby...better than some of the alternatives.
4. Scotty's Broasted Chicken.
If you're from Havasu, this needs no explanation.
For those less fortunate, it is the most delicious chicken to ever grace the surface of the planet... and I had it for lunch.
5. Awards for Functioning Genitals.
The reunion committee (who did a wonderful job, by the way) decided to hand out awards based on various "accomplishments", including categories such as Most Countries Visited and Furthest Traveled for the Reunion. Oh... and Most Children. While not given to someone with a shocking number of kids (three), they definitely opened the door for him to shout to everyone, "My junk works!" All. Night. Long. Yay, for your functioning genitals and their hard earned (pun intended) accomplishment, Kyle Bernabe. Super happy for you.
6. "I wasn't a bitch/asshole in high school! Was I?!"
I overheard this a lot. Being from a small town, we have very little patience for bullshit. After ten years of people, apparently, stewing over some high school interactions, the gauntlet was thrown... HARD. The first time I heard it was at the football game. (Remember, that was after only being in town for two hours.) People were coming out with guns blazing. And it continued all through the banquet and night out at the bar. However, this led to a lot of diffusion of awkwardness and positive mending. Good for us being good human beings and moving forward. A lot of maturity in ten years. Keep it up!
7. Denny's at 2:30AM.
The story of Hank and I ending up at Denny's at 2:30AM is the perfect illustration of Jen being Jen (read: irritating) and Hank being Hank (read: a gentleman) and us being an awesome team (kind of like Batman and Robin.... I am Batman). First, we have to rewind to the pre-reunion. In the presence of my parents (love you, Mom and Dad!) Hank and I drank a bottle of champagne... each. This was sip one in a string of drinks that were consumed prior to dinner starting. Truly, an awful and not well-thought out strategy. At the age of 28, I should know better.
When dinner did start, everyone lined up to get food from the buffet, but I was too busy talking (shocking, I know) to even think, "Hey, I should get some food." Hank (God bless him) not only came up to let me know dinner had started but generously made me a plate when I asked because I wanted to finish my conversation. Such a stand up guy. Unfortunately, I was far too inebriated to eat and only took about four bites of the salad and ate the breadstick. Sorry for wasting your effort, Hank.
Fast forward to about seven hours later, we were being ushered out of the bar during closing when I took one look at Hank and said, "I'm hungry." The look on his face was a cross between "No kidding!" and "Are you fucking kidding me?!" Thankfully, instead of slapping me across the face, he responded that he was hungry too and suggested we walk to Denny's.
Now, Denny's is only about a mile from the bar we were at, but I was in horribly painful heels and was still... ahem...recovering, so I feel like this was his little bit of payback for me not eating my dinner and being somewhat irritating that evening. Well played, sir. At least I got my fruit and eggs, so I think it still worked out in my favor. He still gets the award for Best Reunion Buddy Ever.
Love you all, LHHS Class of 2004.