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RSVPhillippi | May 2019

Dennis Phillippi

Reunited And It Feels So Meh

My wife has her fortieth high school reunion this month, which we will be attending because I used my last “Get Out of Jail Free” card on avoiding seeing Mary Poppins Returns in the theater. Also, it’s at a hotel here in town and there’s a bar. It’s not that I don’t want to go to her reunion. I don’t want to go to anything. The prospect of having to put on a sport coat and spend a night interacting with people isn’t an attractive possibility no matter who the people in question might be. It could be the New Orleans Saints and I’d start thinking about how soon I can politely leave the second I walk in the door. “Hey Drew, hell of a run you guys have been on. I think I’m gonna head to the bar in the lobby.”

The only high school reunion of mine I have ever attended was my twentieth, and I had to travel all the way back to Charlotte, North Carolina to do so. Somehow my wife begged off on this one. I think it had something to do with our only nephew being born or some other lame excuse. I hauled myself all the way there, paid for a hotel room, and was recognized by exactly three people, only two of whom I recognized. I assume the event probably broke down into whatever groups people had been in back in school, but since I wasn’t in a group in my school I just sort of stood around milking two light beers, because I had to drive a rental car. It wasn’t that I was an outcast in high school. I didn’t care enough about high school for anyone to cast me out of anything. Honesty I have no idea why I went to that event, which is pretty much all I thought about while I was there.

The word reunion has the root word “union,” which is from the Greek for onion. Or something like that. Basically layer after layer leading to a central core, which isn’t a bad metaphor for high school, except everyone disagrees on what the core would be. Obviously the popular kids would assume that they are the center, after all, they’re popular. But, I couldn’t name two kids in the popular group at my high school because they may have been popular with one another, but they certainly weren’t popular with me. Naturally the athletes probably think that they are the center of a high school, and to some people I’m sure that’s true. On the other hand I never attended a single sporting event in high school, and only knew someone was a jock because they made sure to wear something every day that demarked them as such. That, and they were mostly a bunch of meatheads.  So, yeah, I’d see a big goon wearing a jacket that indicated they were on some team and I could safely assign them to the jock squad. And avoid them accordingly. I have no doubt the cheerleaders thought they were the center of our high school, and I won’t deny that there were days when she wore her uniform to school that Lori Thompson’s legs weren’t just the center of my high school, they were the center of my universe. But, when you factor in that Lori Thompson wouldn’t have given me a heads up if I were on fire, that puts the lie to that.  Probably some of my fellow theater kids thought we were the core of the school, but that was just one of their many delusions, like their absolute conviction they were going to make a living in theater. None of them did. If anything, the core of our school was probably the cafeteria staff.

My wife and I honeymooned at one of my family reunions that took place at Hungry Mother State Park in Virginia where we stayed in a cabin that had no television. That was over three decades ago and we never went to another one. Every couple of years we attend one of my wife’s reunions which generally takes place in a church basement, and revolves around looking at the pictures from past reunions and taking new ones to look at during future reunions. It’s a slow documentation of our mortality, with barbecue.

My wife’s school reunion will be a quadrennial gathering of people I didn’t go to high school with, and whom I barely know. They’re a perfectly pleasant group of people, and there will be alcohol, and in all likelihood, dancing. That may be the chief redeeming feature because at this point the only place I would even consider dancing in public is in a hotel ballroom exclusively with people my age or older.  There comes a point when people of a certain age should not be dancing where it can be witnessed by anyone under, say, 50.  This won’t be a boogie-all-night kind of thing either because most of us have at least one chronic medical issue that limits physical activity to no more than an hour. Then there will be sitting around round tables drinking and pretending I’m not itching to flee. People will rehash things that happened on senior cruises and homecoming dances.  There will be discussions of the fact that now we actually go on Senior Cruises, during which we can’t wait for our own homecoming.  There will be a lot of laughter about things I don’t remember because I wasn’t there. I’ll spend most of my time with another husband that didn’t go to their school talking awkwardly about college football. I’ll start clock watching. Again, it’s not these people. It’s all people.

If reunion comes from the word union, which comes for the word for onion, then a reunion is similar to the act of trying to put an onion back together. Putting an onion back together contains many of the same elements; it’ll be messy, complicated and probably involve tears. Look for me at the lobby bar.