I did well in college, but had a terrible transition to full-fledged adulthood. There were so many missteps in the years after college; bad job choices, bad “boy” (and “bad boy”) choices, bad substance intake choices, bad mental health in general. This album, “Being There” hit me just right during that time, and this song probably best captures the sturm und drang of that period. At the time, I worked for Whole Foods and was house-sitting for a coworker. I could walk to his house from work, which was much better than the hour train ride it usually took me to get home. One night after work, I had yet another crappy encounter with one of my not-good boy choices, walked home in the Cambridge darkness, ranting all the way, and blew in the house full of fury. Slamming this into the CD player helped, but not as much as moving across town–which I would do later that month–or moving across the country, which wouldn’t happen for a few years, but was on the horizon.
Summer of 1991, I was working the register at my first job. It was afternoon and my shift almost over when I rang up the guy. He was older, had a mustache and a full head of hair and looked very tired, but he had a certain glow about him.
“How are you?” I asked the universal opening customer service question, reaching for his check.
His face brightened and he broke into a smile. “I’m great!” he exclaimed. Even at that early stage in my career, I knew that this level of enthusiasm is rather unusual answer in the customer service world, so I made further inquiries. “I went to my 20 year high school reunion last night and it was so much fun.” he told me.
“Really?” I asked. I hadn’t given much thought to reunions, being mid-high school career at that point, and also not really loving my school. At the time, high school was just something to get through.
“Oh yeah.” the guy continued, “the ten year reunion was okay, but this was great. Everyone had dropped the pretension of pretending that they were doing anything amazing and we all just caught up. It was fun.”
I smiled at him, half wrapped up in the past and half wrapped in the present.
“So you should go to your twenty year.” He told me again. “Don’t miss it.”
I told him I would, and we parted, but honestly, that particular reunion was more years away than I had yet lived, so who really knew? I made a mental note though.
About a year ago, thinking about the reunion that would happen next summer, I realized with a start that I was almost as old as that glowing guy with the beard. And I knew there was no doubt I was going to the reunion.
So I went. And it was incredibly fun. After a tour of my school—perhaps my favorite event—my friend and I stopped by the pool across the street from my high school so she could have a mini-reunion with people in choir. It was hot—the temperature hovered in the high 90s—and I was happy to see the snow cone shack from my childhood was still in existence, though now it was tricked out with air conditioning and higher prices. I stepped up to order, because in that heat, ice and flavored sugar water is exactly what hits the spot.
The girl working the shack was beautiful in that way that teenagers never really realize they are. She had black curly hair and big blue eyes and was incredibly tiny. She inquired about my day and I mentioned I was in town for a reunion and had just taken a school tour of my high school.
“I go to Borah!” she told me after she established that the school across the street was the school I just toured. “I love Borah.”
As she packed the “snow” into a Styrofoam cup, we chatted about her life. I asked what sorts of things she did at Borah and she smiled shyly and said that she had run for junior class president and so she would be doing that next year. She also had plans for college and had done some college tours.
We talked about my college years as she poured the flavor onto the ice and she handed me my grape flavored snow cone. I wished her luck at Borah and in college and wandered back to my friends to eat my snow cone.
A few days later it hit me that I had recreated my own 16-year-old experience, but with me on the “old person” side of things. I wonder if she will remember our encounter 22 years later when it’s time to attend her reunion and I wished I had the presence of mind to tell her how fun it was to catch up with everyone and how grounding to see people I spent so many years with.
Where I match a song to a specific memory.