Post Leg 1 of my journey, I got on the road to Rexburg. Through classmates.com, one of the spammiest spammers in Spamtown, I had reconnected with one of my old theater chums, K, several years back. I was surprised but thrilled to find out that she had remarried, and that the guy she’d ended up with was D, the go-to character actor in my class; they seemed exactly right for each other. Through them, I had found out about the 30 year reunion, orchestrated in large part by D, and when they found out I was making the schlep, they invited me to crash at their house.
K had told me that she’d suffered some complications from a childhood illness, including some mobility issues; I had been happy to find out she was still around, as the life expectancy on her particular disease is not long. When I knocked on the door of their house, hugs were natural and generous, and chat was easy. I caught up on local gossip – Rexburg has grown exponentially since Ricks Junior College became BYU North. After about an hour, it was time to go.
Over 100 folks showed up. About 30 were spouses, but given the fact that we only had 200 in our graduating class, it’s a pretty impressive number. I’d say roughly 50% of folks had never left town or had left but returned, a little over 40% had ended up in Utah and a very small number of us trekked in from out of state.
One really smart thing that the organizers did was to make name tags with our yearbook pictures on them. I’d see someone, not have a clue, then squint at the picture, we’d both break out in a smile at the same time, then hug. There was very little tension; people were friendly and warm. One thing that shocked me was how great most of the women looked, despite the fact that many had not discovered the advances in hair care since the 70s (or a style much beyond the Farrah Fawcett feathered bangs). Maybe it’s those clean-living Mormon habits (no booze, smoking, or coffee) combined with a generational shift to taking better care of ourselves. I figured I would gloat and be all cackly about looking better than other people, but was pleasantly surprised that I preferred seeing how many people had gotten a lot better with age.
I hadn’t known how I would react. I didn’t know many people that well, but for some reason, I fellt like hugging pretty much everyone. Naturally, the geeky, nerdy, awkward kids turned out the best. One woman who I mistook for someone else (same first name) was downright stunning and a delight to connect with, especially in context of both of our awful yearbook photos, maribou feathers included. The hopeless nerd from my French class was handsome and one of the more sophisticated folks there, with a lovely wife and a relatively small amount of kids (7).
Yes, kids. People had an average of 5 or more; one guy had 13. There were a lot of 8s and 9s. What was surprising was that at least half the people I spoke with were on second marriages. Several who I had a little time with quietly acknowledged the pressure to get married young – pretty much right out of high school for the women and post-mission for the men – and how no one should really be surprised by the high divorce rate.
Several potential friendships that never could have developed under the constraints of high school have now at least got starting places. It’s times like this that I really celebrate the Web. None of this could have happened without it. Rah, rah, Internet, evil though you may be at heart.
As a side note, I will say that I was curious to see what would happen with two of the most popular kids in the school, one of whom was a classic Mean Girl. Our paths didn’t really cross over the course of the night; I could always find someone else to talk to, and they most likely didn’t see me or didn’t want to. At the end of the night, when D asked me to run something in to one of them, I thought, oh hell. A night of successful and pleasant evasion over. But the person had disappeared into the bathroom. YES. Sometimes, you don’t want high school to end.
The night ended with a visit to my high school drama teacher and his wife, enormously talented people with great senses of humor. I can never thank him in particular for taking me under his wing and recognizing and encouraging my talent; otherwise, I doubt I would have had much of a shot. Due to my open non-Mormonness, I had permanent outsider status. Mr. B gave me hope and faith in myself in an environment where I stuck out like a sore thumb, and I have always been grateful for it.
Tomorrow: The Finale. Yee haw.