Peeking into dark classrooms and wandering the trophy-lined hallways of Iona Prep on a Saturday night during the Class of '98 Reunion was - in the eloquent words of our valedictorian, Mark Michalowski - "a complete mindfuck."
The flashbacks were in full swing as we four strolled past the rows of polished lockers (yes 4, out of the 198 who graduated ten years ago) - homeroom shenanigans, beating deadlines for the school newspaper, inside jokes during AP Calculus (we bitchslapped logic proofs), rehearsing for weekend speech-and-debate tournaments in Room 209, the hot Italian teacher who had an affair with a senior after graduation...
The reunion wasn't just all about us. The classes of '03, '93, '88, '83, and '78 were in attendance as well. The class of '03, fresh from college - not yet affected by "the real world" - were an eager bunch, enjoying the comeback, happily paying their respects to the school that had sent them off to prestigious universities and into the depths of student loan hell. The class of '83 was loud and obnoxious, most of them drunk from the free beer and wine that flowed throughout the cafeteria, fortysomethings filled up on the best buffet dinner $75 could buy per person.
And then there were the '98ers. Thankfully we had been part of the same circle back in the day. All four of us were speech-and-debate and theater veterans. That night, most of us left our ties at home and dressed in our best jackets and carefully distressed jeans. We did the brief who's-doing-what recap over some shrimp cocktail and white wine. Two of us stayed in New York. One bounced back and forth between Pittsburgh - and Japan. And yours truly was the sole Prepster who had become a West Coaster. Teacher, entrepreneur, scientist and writer.
A framed portrait of our graduating class was on display outside the Tully Gymnasium. Besides commenting on our own photos (that hair! those eyebrows!) we pointed out faces we hadn't seen since 1998, some we never cared to see, and others we had forgotten about ("Where are they now?"). Later, after enjoying some baked ziti and gravy-smothered chicken, we broke away from chatter and music to go on a private tour of our private school. We ended back in the gym, more ginormous than we remembered, and snooped behind the curtains on the stage where we had once embarrassed ourselves in front of friends and family with an a cappella version of My Favorite Year during our senior year (don't ask). We then went on to brave the old locker room where it smelled like several cats had died in a pile of month-old jockstraps covered in vomit.
The night ended shortly after ten. Armed with a souvenir pint glass decorated with the school emblem, I hopped in my mom's car and drove through the streets of New Rochelle, down North Avenue, past old haunts (the Wykagyl Starbucks, where I bought my first mocha frappucino) - just like old times. I made it back to my parents' place in time to catch Anne Hathaway make light of her ex-fiancé drama during her SNL monologue.
I had lowered my expectations during the weeks leading up to this reunion, and I'm glad I did. There was no rekindling of any kind, no grand epiphany by the end of the night, no hooking up with an old flame who would later hold me hostage on a boat so he could smuggle drugs into Mexico, right before shooting him in self-defense and learning that I was pregnant with his child...Way to get my hopes up, Aaron Spelling.
One thing we were able to take away from the night: The crazy fact that Iona Prep's current freshman class was born the year we started our freshman year. Dang.
I could spend paragraphs breaking down the psychology and total strangeness of high school reunions, the reasons why we put ourselves through revisiting a past that's either been too painful or fairly painless (simple curiosity, some kind of closure, research for a screenplay), but why bother? It just happened. We came. We saw. We went back to our regularly scheduled lives. And that's okay.
I plan to hold on to the business cards I collected, the phone numbers I jotted down. Who knows, perhaps we'll meet again. I hear the twenty-year can be a doozy.
But hey, we'll always have Facebook status updates.