Sunday, October 18, 2009

Tattered on the fringe

So we had part of my high school 20 -year reunion last night. Very odd. Reunions are kind of like proms- you don't over-analyze, you just go. And funny enough, people are glad to see you- even if they had no clue who you were 20 years ago. After all, being teenagers together is very intense. You never know who was watching you as you rolled down the tunnel of your own existence.

The folks who organized the reunion (and they did a fabulous job) got their hands on some of the footage that was taken just before we graduated. Most of it is from the final senior awards ceremony, the pep rally, and folks getting ready to take the big group class picture in cap and gown. That was fun to watch, partly because I wasn't in a single frame. The people who flickered across the screen were exactly who I expected to see there: the popular kids, arms around each other, living in a world from which I was excluded.

I think some folks were surprised to realize I didn't hang out with them in high school. I was a bit of a character there, with black clothes, big buttons, and the wildest earrings (clip!) that I could lay hands on. I was sad to learn the other kid who was voted Most Unforgettable was gone. Like I said, you never know who was watching. It was just odd to have people come over and want to hug you, when twenty years ago- the last time you saw them-they didn't have two words in a row to say to you. I'm not into hugging strangers (I don't even like doing it in church), and though I keep trying not to think of these people as strangers, the vast majority of them really and truly are. I was on the fringe of these people's lives, a fact made sparklingly clear by the video, those echoes of the center of the past. I wasn't even an accepted part of the fringe. I was completely absent, not even passing in front of the camera on my way elsewhere, in the lunch line, in the library.

If I was making video of my high school experience, it would include a lot of people whom these people didn't know. I was far more at home at CTY and with the folks I met there. Even of my "friends" at school, I can only think of three who were actually friends to me; most of the time, I felt begrudgingly tolerated. With my CTY friends, I was just one of them. I think it is kind of the same thing those popular kids felt, sitting about the senior courtyard, hugging and singing and laughing together. A kind of "we're all in this together" feeling. Watching them laugh and talk to the camera and hug each other, kind of reminded me of sitting about the lounge of Franklin and Marshall. I might still have been on the fringes, but I was an accepted part of the fringes. The center didn't push me away, they even actively included me, asking me to come along with this or that. Being invited along is a mark of acceptance that becomes so important for teenagers on the fringe. I suspect most teenagers feel themselves on the fringe, even when they are in the center.

Sitting at the table nearest the door, it was fun to watch people step into the room, and get the look of "I don't know anyone here!" People change over 20 years. I found that guys change more than girls- the faces of the women were mostly recognizable, if I ever knew them. For the men, we were all glad we had nametags. I was also surprised at how old people looked. After all, we're not forty yet. There was a good deal of grey hair, faces with more lines than I expected. I even went home and looked in the mirror again, and seriously, I do not look as old as these people do. I wasn't expecting any of us to look like teenagers, but seriously, am I that old? Perhaps I ought to be happy that I am "better preserved" than some of these folks? I mean, some folks looked right on the money, right where I think I look... but a whole lot more than I expected looked old. Weird.

We're supposed to have a picnic today, so we can meet the kids and grandkids (!) and all. Might be interesting. Or it might not. Might give the kids something to do after being penned up from the cold and wet for two days...

1 comment:

Niksmom said...

Small world. I went to F&M my freshman year. So did my sister. My dad graduated from F&M, too. (cue Twilight Zone theme...)