Thursday, July 15, 2004

Two Decades

Twenty years. No matter what was happening during that span of time, it's a long time. It could be your 20th birthday. That's a lot of growing up that's happened in that time. Maybe it's a goal you want to accomplish within twenty years. That's a lot of goaling. Perhaps it's a twenty year wedding anniversary. That's a lot of growing up, goaling, fighting, loving and everything else in between.

In my case, today, twenty years measures the amount of time it's been since I graduated from high school. Las Lomas class of 1984, that's me.

It's not something I've often thought about. Not in any meaningful way, at least. I've used it more as a measurement of my own age to perform periodic reality checks. For example, in 1998: "Let's see, if I graduated in 1984, and you're 20 now, that means I could have been your babysitter!" Observations like that though, made to people who are younger than me but I still consider to be good friends -- that's just downright depressing. I haven't dwelled on the time passage a lot. I have enough other things in my life to make me feel old.

High school is not one of those events in my life I look back on with any longing. Oh, sometimes I'll happen across some photos of me going to prom, or our softball team winning the league championship game and think, "That was fun." But it's not anything I want to go back and relive.

I came out of high school relatively unscathed. Sure, I had the same scars that everyone seems to get, those of feeling awkward and unsure of myself, and wondering what the point of studying was if all it did was teach me that I really didn't understand the Pythagoreum Theorum and what practical application it might have in my future life, whatever that might be.

I had my own group of friends, mostly other girls who played sports with me. We weren't the stoners, the drama geeks, the school government, the cheerleaders, the jocks or the losers, although I knew a few of each from those groups well enough to greet between and during classes. I knew where my boundaries were -- who I could talk to easily, and who I should pay homage to so as to stay out of trouble and avoid attaching any negative labels to myself.

Other than that, high school seemed a blur. It still does. I remember very little of my sophomore year -- I think probably because I played after school sports all year, and the basketball practice and game schedule was so hectic and in constant flux, that I slept when I wasn't at practice, a game or at school. I don't remember any classes I took that year. I just remember sleeping.

When I was finally free, I knew that I was supposed to miss these people and look back on those four years as some of the happiest times of my life. But I was ready to just move on. I was young for my age -- still am -- and it was a lot of work to keep up with everyone around me. Getting out was a relief.

There were a few friends I kept in touch with - mostly younger than me. They were easier to be friends with, probably because I didn't have to pretend I knew everything around them. It was a lot of work to stay caught up with my peers. The younger ones were easier to impress.

So I went to college for three years. I'm pretty sure during that time I kept in touch with the person I considered to be my very bestest friend ever. Her name was Carmel (pronounced like the city, not the candy). She was two years behind me, but she was the friend I had who it felt like I had been friends with forever. Everything came easily between us, and I never had to pretend to be someone I wasn't just to impress her. She liked me because I was Laura, even though I wasn't always entirely sure, in typical teen-age angst, who that was.

I went to her wedding, but I can't tell you now what year that was. I know she married her high school sweetheart -- a big guy who had facial hair when he was a junior, and frankly, scared me brainnless during PE on the soccer field. "Here, dude. You can have the ball. Take it. Go. Score." I wasn't about to mess with him. When she told me she was dating him I was appalled, but mostly because it just seemed like he was so...old. Which, come to find out, he was. Older than me, at least, and I was a senior. But this big lug of a guy turned out to be a big teddy bear, and they seemed really happy together.

I went to their new house a couple of times, and then....I don't know. Is that when I left for Chile? Or was I at BYU when I lost contact with them? All I know is I sent them a Christmas card and never heard anything back.

A few years ago I saw his name on and looked for hers, but never saw it. I looked them up in on-line white pages. No luck. Called information. Nothing. My parents had moved out of state and hadn't heard anything. I didn't know who else to contact to find out about them, since I was no longer in touch with anyone at all from back then. I wistfully chalked it up as one of those friendships I'd remember with fondness and too bad I'd never see her again.

Then I got the notification for the twenty year reunion. (My name, interestingly enough, is on the "Where are they now?" page. Which seems silly since I've been registered on for several years. But whatever.) I started getting nostaligic -- not for the ickiness of high school, but for some people I genuinely miss.

I got brave and used to contact a girl I had been friends with from the eighth grade on, until something happened during our senior year that made us not friends anymore. (I wish I could remember what it was, but I honestly don't know, so Kim, if you ever run across this, I'm sorry for whatever it was. I have a feeling that it was because you started going out with someone I didn't like and I don't think either one of us dealt very well with that, and silly me, you're now married to him, and what can I say other than I was a dumb 16-year old who didn't have a lot of perspective back then.)

So I emailed her, cheerfully blathering on about the reunion, and hope to see you there and hope life has been good to you, blah blah where-has-the-time-gone?-cakes. Surprisingly, she read the email that same morning. Shockingly, she responded immediately. She wondered if I was still in the area, and if I was, give her a call and let's go to lunch.

So I did. Not because I was going to drive six hours for a lunch date, but because I'm a brave 37-year old.

Yeah, right. It was scary. My memories of her are of someone who's always in control in every situation. She knows what to say, when to say it and to whom. Even more so now, she speaks machine-gun fast with sniper accuracy. Though I initiated the call, she owned the conversation. We chit-chatted about this and that, parents, children or in my case, the lack thereof, jobs and careers. Then she mentioned Carmel and how their families are good friends still. And I timidly said, "Do you think you could give me a phone number for her?" I was pretty sure she'd say no, because I think that friendship was another reason Kim and I stopped being friends (Sorry, again, Kim. Dumb 16-year old, that's me.)

Long story longer, I got Carmel's phone number. (Thanks, Kim!) That call was harder to make than the one to Kim had been, probably because I knew where I stood with Kim, but with Carmel, I honestly didn't know how a phone call some 17 years later would be received. She answered the phone (why do our voices get deeper as we get older?) and after I identifed myself, she paused for only a moment and said easily, "Sure. I'm right there with you. How are you doing?" And even though my heart was still going thunka-thunkity-thunk, starting that conversation with her was as though no time had passed.

We agreed that I had fallen off the face of the earth, and I told her about the Christmas card incident, but she didn't remember ever getting it, so they must have moved, and man, was it good to talk to her. Hi, Carmel!

We made plans to meet up when I go there in August for the reunion. And probably due more to my nervousness than anything else, we didn't talk for very much longer. I did have enough presence of mind, though, to tell her that while I didn't miss high school, I did miss the people that mattered to me. There weren't a lot of them that I can remember, but she did. She mattered a lot and had a postive impact on my life. It's been a great sadness in my life to have not had her in it for so long. There's been a hole where she should have gone, and I hope to start filling that in now.

So I'm looking forward to the reunion, not because I have grandiose expectations of reliving the past, (you can't relive what you don't remember!) but because I think there were probably more people than I know who mattered. Who made a difference, but I was too young and dumb to get that back then.

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