My high school reunion

28857_1453844944109_1172860120_1466263_6655622_njeffhigh-786x1024

Sorry it took me a few days to get to this. Blog was down—but now it’s back. As am I.

My high school reunion took place Saturday night. Twenty years. Mahopac High School. The event was held at the Renaissance in White Plains. As one of the organizers, I was nervous, apprehensive, a tad scared even. It’s weird enough spending four hours with people you haven’t seen in at least 10 years—and, in many cases, 20 years. But I tend to be awkward regardless. To kiss or to hug? What if I don’t remember someone’s name? Those types of concerns burn my stomach.

So what happened? Absolute bliss. To call my reunion one of the 10-to-20 best nights of my life is no exaggeration. It was simply unadulterated joy and fun. My friend/co-organizer Frank Zaccheo said it felt like coming home again, and I agree with that take 100%. I was home, back in a comfort zone I still occasionally long for. The first moment I got that feeling was pre-reunion, when I was walking through the hotel with my longtime friend/classmate, Jonathan Powell. We ran into a guy we graduated with, Chris Guadagnoli. Jonathan is tall, muscular and African-American. Chris is short and white, with a shaved head and tattoos all over his upper arms. I remember when we were kids, Chris’ mom owned Living Waters, Mahopac’s very own Christian book shop. He was one of the nicer kids around.

The two hadn’t seen each other in eons—and their embrace was real and, to me, quite powerful. With a laugh, Jon said, “Guad, you probably don’t remember this, but when we were 9 you saved my life in a swimming pool, and …”

Chris interrupted. “Of course I do. I pulled you out …” Etc … etc. I can’t fully explain this, but something about the exchanged touched me to the core. We were all together again, and there was no race, no religion, no politics, no … nothing. With rare exception (a couple of one-time jocks maintained an inexplicable aloofness), there were no cliques or crowds. Deiter von Ahn, the skinny bookworm from back in the day, chatted it up with Corinne Lee, the perky popular girl. Amy Regan, the cheerleader, laughed her head off with Chris Katechis, the sports nut. It was as if we all stepped into a time machine, back to 1990, and just let loose—but sans the pressures that come with zits and immaturity. With our four-hour open bar, there was tons of boozing (Total alcoholic beverages I’ve probably had over the past two years: 10. Total alcoholic beverages I had in a two-hour span at the reunion: Five). With the DJ killin’ it, there was tons of dancing. There were a surprising number of “hook-ups,” which only added to the blissful post-event gossiping.

At the end of the event, with Donna Summer’s Last Dance blaring from the speakers, Lori Raffa grabbed my hand and dragged me onto the dance floor. Until we started planning the reunion, I probably hadn’t said more than three words to Lori since 1985. But there we were, just having a blast, the kinship of nostalgia and a shared history guiding our way.

This is a bit of a babble, and for that I apologize. It’s three days removed from the reunion, and I’m still a bit sad. Innocence comes and goes very quickly. We graduate, find jobs, get married, settle down, have kids. The hair thins, the wrinkles thicken. This was a precious opportunity to stop the clock for a second. A brief, flickering, glorious second.

I want that second back.

2 thoughts on “My high school reunion”

  1. Just read your piece at cnn. Great stuff! Seems like you and I had the same problems in high school (ie lack of prom date, bad hair cut), as well as the same trepidation with going to a reunion. My 10 year is coming up. Looks like I’m about about to dust off the ol’ Hilfiger ensemble and get pumped to blink-182. Wish me luck!

Leave a Reply