It’s fall. Football. Homecoming.
Where I went to high school, we did homecoming big. Not just a little big, but real big. It was sort of a show back fifty years ago, now it’s a production the senior class starts right after the first day of school. They have a two hour production, stage lights, live music, dancing, costumes, the whole shebang.
It’s beautiful. They go back and pick music from the years they honor. 2009, 1999, 1989, 1979, and back. Two or three songs. Kids dressed like they dressed.
Honestly, I thought all high schools did the same. I was in the band, we played all the music back in the olden days. Out of respect, I didn’t list my graduating decade.
I went to my homecoming last year. It was a reunion.
Someone plans the party. There’s a dinner. Everyone buys a T-shirt they’re not going to wear after this weekend.
Later, after the music, after the laughter, after the jokes, the men separate from the women. They find a table, back in the corner. They go back to yesteryear.
Yes, they are shadows of who they used to be. Larger, but shadows, never the less. A lot of gray hair, more wrinkles, bifocal lenses instead of sunglasses.
“Remember that game against Hill Valley? I’ve never been so cold in my life. Ronnie ran right over that left tackle. All. Night. Long. I think that kid went on to play ball at State. But, he knew Ronnie had his number.”
“Coach said I ran so slow my shoelaces froze to the ground.” another added. His hands shaking.
Across the table. “I ran track. I think the coach wanted us to run to Jackson and back every cotton-picking day. I don’t even run to the bathroom anymore. I walk.”
“Ronnie was too young when he died.” Someone added.
“Car wreck. Yep. Way too young. I wish he could be here tonight.” Another responded.
“And what about Charles. He went straight to Viet Nam. Bang. He was gone. Never even made it to Christmas.” The men were silent, thinking for a long minute. One of them lifts a beer, toasting. His hand is shaking. “Good boys who never got to be good men.”
Across the room, the women gather. They are sitting at their own round table. They’re looking through a stack of old high school annuals. One or two are sipping on a glass of wine, the others are drinking water from a bottle. They’re seventeen year old girls once again.
“Remember when we used to sneak out and party all night, then sneak back in before daylight?”
The giggles start.
“That was a long time ago. Too long to remember.” she said. “In fact, there’s some stuff you just don’t want to remember. Leave it at the door.” She was shaking her head and laughing just the same.
“We had so much fun.”
“I hated high school. Just hated every minute. I wanted to get out, go somewhere, do something.”
“I do remember this one boy. Oh my goodness. If I knew then what I know now.”
“Hush. Don’t say another word. He’s here, over there, sitting at that table.”
“That guy? No. That can’t be him. Oh, my goodness.”
“You dodged that bullet girl!” they all laughed.
These reunions happen every year. They’re all different, they’re all the same. Holding on, remembering what we want, forgetting what we have to forget. Struggling with who we wanted to be, fighting who we are. Realizing life gets real if you live long enough.
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