I did that time warp thing over the weekend otherwise known as a high school class reunion.
For some reason, I thought the class of 1979 would class preserved in time like a loaf of Velveeta.
Well, surprise, surprise, surprise.
My life took a left turn from what I had planned, my 401 K downsized to a 4, my future erased with an Etch-a-Sketch thanks to a divorce that spanned two continents, thirteen time zones and three credit cards.
And thanks to a midlife senior moment, I forgot to pack something to wear.
I raided my storage unit in Chicago for something to squeeze into. I had two choices: my dad’s golf sweat shirt paired with pajama bottoms or my wedding dress. I went for the latter. It wasn’t a full blown gown but a short peachy number with spaghetti straps. The dress fit—well sort of—I couldn’t zip it all the way that is, if I wanted to breathe, which is why I wore the matching sweater the entire time.
No ballet flats or pump, just fuzzy slippers I picked up at a consignment shop.
I entered the banquet hall, the mid-life time traveler ex-former hell-raiser whose living in China but is still an American (which I had to explain a million times). Yes, I love our country, especially toilets with seats and the cereal aisle. And oh yes, that whole freedom of speech thing really rocks.
My eyes pop out when look around. Who are all these old people? What happened to the jocks with David Cassidy haircuts and six packs? I eyed a former crush who no longer crushed me and blinked a few times at a guy who was the spittin’ image of his dad. There were a few others I didn’t recognize at all, including a person reaching for a breadstick in the buffet line. Come to find out, it was the kid whose locker was next to mine.
Classmates shared pictures of their second homes and grandkids. Those who never made the honor roll now had ostrich sized nest eggs (You know your life sucks when the class stoner has a better retirement plan than you do). I thought of my 4 by 8 storage unit. My apartment in China that I shared with my naked acupuncture man. The detours my life took. The dead ends. The rest stops. It’s time to do a U-turn. My stomach churned thinking of how long I’ll have to work just to eat cat food, a generic brand.
If only I could shake up my past and have a clean slate.
We talked about the teachers who molded us. Friends who upheld us. Police who kept their spotlights on us. I chatted with a several friends who married their high school sweethearts, now pillars of a strong community.
Thank goodness for these pillars.
A few classmates still have teens in an era where heroin is the new pot and kids cruise the dark web instead of Main Street. I think of the police who made us dump our beer and escorted us home. If only you could control the knobs of a kid’s life.
As if our parents could control ours.
Then, there were the empty chairs. We all had the same question that no one dared to ask: who will win the Grim Reaper’s raffle ticket for our next reunion?
As a kid, I busted my butt to get in college so I could leave that small town. Now all I want is to get back in. But I can’t travel back in time. My fuzzy slippers won’t bring me there. Can’t erase my mistakes, but I can reimagine my future. I smile for the class photo and hold my breath. I’ll never squeeze back into this dress again.