In Part One of this essay, the author discussed her experience finding an old boyfriend at her 40th high school reunion and walking the hallways of her high school. The following is Part Two.
I was up for whatever came my way the final night of my 40th high school reunion.
We entered the ballroom of the East Ridge Country Club in Shreveport, LA, and at least one member of my old gang was there – my friend, Carolyn, who didn’t go off to college with us but got married, instead, and remains so, to the same man, with a grandchild and another on the way.
I looked for familiar faces and I panicked a bit when I remembered people who didn’t remember me. At the high school that morning I had recalled so few of the teachers and I had forgotten what an amazing football team we had; we were state champions during my tenure.
But then the reverse occurred — some people lit up when they saw my face, though my recollections of them were vague. It made me believe that somehow the universe’s tally sheet was balanced, for once.
Perhaps most astonishing was that I recalled some events exactly right: the field parties in some poor farmer's cow pasture, the black-light room at Jay Singleton's house, the crabby English teacher who kicked Kay Miles and me off the newspaper staff.
There were also the weekends when a group of us would explore old buildings in downtown Shreveport, LA, once lying to a cop that we were architecture students and so had business being there.
I remembered the summer parties in an African-American neighborhood during a time of imposed segregation. The Jax beer in tubs was cold under lights strung outside wood-framed shotgun houses. We danced and lolled on the grass.
I had my share of adventures, and four decades later I got to share them with some of those who were there.
The day after the reunion, a classmate whom I somehow missed seeing there called and asked if he could come to my mother’s to catch up. He had a confession to make.
He had tried to find me because he said he felt guilty for years over something he had done in a fit of jealousy in 1975. Upset that I had gone out with a friend of his, he bashed in a headlight on my date’s car, he admitted, and he hoped I could forgive him.
Mark Goodin stood in my mother’s driveway, hemming and hawing a bit, and for a moment I was 16 again, standing barefoot in cutoffs and a t-shirt, feeling freshly powerful. He remembered vivid details of my past, confirming my own recollections and naming names I had long forgotten.
I thought of the possibility that perhaps he and a long-known friend had talked about me over the years, just as my friend and I had done.
Why do we remember so vividly whom we remember? Once upon a time I would have had to analyze it. But after 40 years, it didn’t matter. Opportunities and connections were made and lost. My past was my own but part of others’ lives, too.
Ultimately what I took away was some knowledge about my place in the world then, an acceptance of how I spent my time and what I was interested in. It was a brief chance to assess an important part of my life and claim it as my own.
This is the second in a two-part series.
Danna Walker is a Patch regional editor in Maryland. A shorter version of this essay appeared in the Shreveport Times. Some names have been changed.