It felt much like one of the school dances we loved to have. These were the times when the squares (nerds,) the hoods (hoodlums,) the social climbers, the brains and the jocks mingled relatively unmolested. What happened outside, after the dance was over, was another story.
When I finally sashayed into the ballroom, they were are seated, eating their salads. I had completely missed the cocktail hour. I was informed at the reception table that my friends were frantic with worry, fearing I had broken my word and was a no-show.
I have always been a known compulsive punctual. I used to have nightmares about being late for school decades after leaving high school. I would much rather arrive too early and kill time than be late for anything.
This trip had a two-pronged purpose. It had been much too long since I had visited my mother, so the expense to travel to Chicago was easier to justify. I flew into Midway Airport, rented a car for the weekend, and drove south for 45 minutes to Matteson, Illinois, where my mother lives. My plan was to spend the nights there and drive the 44 miles to the reunion on Saturday evening. Twenty-eight of those miles would be on the Tri-State Toll Road (I-294,) a roadway I used daily for many years before I left Chicago for California.
I had forgotten about Illinois’ penchant for tearing up their roadways every weekend, blocking two lanes and confusing the already über-confusing toll collection plazas and the exit ramps with orange traffic cones. To add insult to injury, the far-too-closely spaced toll plazas represented $1.50 each. Between exiting too soon and having to re-enter the toll road and paying yet another toll –TWICE-- I arrived an hour late and $6 poorer.
When I finally found the hotel there was no valet parking. Instead I had to park myself in a vast open lot -- in the farthest row from the entrance of the hotel – and walk an unspeakable number of steps in my high heels to find the ballroom. So, in addition to being embarrassed for being so conspicuous in my tardiness, my feet were killing me and I hadn’t even danced yet.
Then the class clown, damn him, yells out “Ladies and Gentlemen, the late Lezlie H.!”
My friends from majorettes had saved me a seat at their table. I have kept in touch with them ever since we found each other on Facebook a few years ago. We seemed to pick up where we left off fifty years ago. Sure we all looked older and our bodies had changed, but our chatter was easy and endless. Two of them introduced me to their second husbands. Their first husbands had also been in our graduating class, but they were not present. One had died.
The third former baton twirler was still married to her high school sweetheart, John. The two of them seem to have thrived over the years. They were youthful, glamorous, fit and happy. It was charming and highly unusual.
My first boyfriend in life was there with his wife. Teddy and I had been an item in pre-school at age 4. He had given me a Captain Midnight decoder ring that he had gotten out of a cereal box to seal our union. All through childhood, we remained close. In high school we danced the bop every morning in the gym, before the bell to start the day. And we danced it again to “The Jailhouse Rock,” fifty years later on Saturday night. It was as familiar as riding a bicycle.
Also at the table were two woman with whom I have tangled politically on Facebook. They are both ultra-conservative, but one has been restrained in her trolling on my cross-posted blog pieces on politics. The other has not been restrained and ultimately caused me to un-friend her. Her insults were beyond the pale. It’s so funny, though. She had nothing much to say to me at all Saturday night. It could have been because of the fact that, after I greeted her warmly, I kept my back to her the entire time. I don’t know. Bravado in person just isn’t the same as on Facebook, is it.?
I suspect there were far more right-leaning people at the reunion than we lefties, but no one wanted to get into verbal sparring at such a festive occasion.
Out of the 700 or so graduates in our class of 1962, 92 were deceased. In attendance were about 150. Out the Plus 30, the group of students I belonged to who had been selected out of the feeder schools on the basis of IQ and aptitude for an educational experiment, 17 showed up. Two of them had gotten married to each other ten years ago. One of them got enough drinks in him to tell me he had had a crush on me the whole time we were in the Plus 30. I kind of got that idea without his announcement because of the way his arm kept finding its way around what used to be my waist. I never did meet his wife, who was “around here somewhere.”
One man I didn’t recognize who was still visibly socially awkward walked up to me and said “Weren’t you a class officer?” I nodded. “I voted for you.” So I thanked him profusely and moved on. Bless his heart.
It was really big fun. I stayed until after 11 p.m., found my way back to my mother’s house with no problems and spent the rest of the weekend learning things about my mom I never knew before. It was a kind of oral history. It is worthy of a book. I hope I have the chops, because I think I’ll take it on.
Cheers to the Proviso East High School (Maywood, IL) Class of 1962. Thanks for the memories.