The weekend before last, I attended my 40th high school reunion. It was conceived and hosted by a classmate who I had not seen since we graduated in June of 1977, but who was one of my absolute favorite people in high school. Colin was someone with whom every moment was literally spent hysterically laughing. He reminded me of an amusing boredom-buster he and I and another friend (who was also at the reunion, who I enjoyed catching up with very much) used to do in Spanish class. We’d write a line of a story, leave a single word on the next line, and then fold down the paper and pass it to the next person, who wouldn’t know what you’d written except for the last word. Then that person would write the next line and pass it along, repeating until the page was full. We’d read the finished result, often separately and silently, in class, and try our damnedest not to crack up to the point of being asked to leave the classroom. We usually didn’t succeed. Colin said he had actually saved some of them but couldn’t locate them in time for the party. I hope he can find them for the next time we get together, which I anticipate will be soon because I really like the guy and want to stay in touch. As he runs the hotel and restaurant in New York City where we had the reunion – shout out to the charming French Quarter Guest Apartments and the Bourbon Street Bar & Grill, steps away from Times Square and the theater district! – that gives me a fantastic excuse to see him again.
Those are the best kind of stories to tell at reunions, because not only do they recall a shared experience, they bring back some of the laughter. Another such tale involved a party at our friend Robin’s house. (Robin, sadly, did not attend the reunion, but she was fondly remembered by all.) Robin had some great parties, which I always associate with listening to Elton John records and also, somehow, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, whose heyday was really before our time but we knew every word to every song anyway. (“She’s Just My Style” was a perennial favorite.) There would inevitably be drinking and, frequently, encounters of a sexual kind in her laundry room, which abutted the basement den where the festivities took place. During one particular party, while the lights were low – well, off, actually – and there was much necking and petting going on, one of our male friends decided to disrobe entirely and plant himself for eventual discovery on the big console TV. Suddenly, the lights came on, and there he was, in all his nakedness. But who had turned on the light? As our formerly bare-assed classmate reminded us at the reunion, it was Robin’s mother! And she was none too pleased to see a nude six-footer perched nonchalantly on the family television.
We also recounted parties at my house, where we practically invented the Long Island Iced Tea by mixing together everything we found in my father’s liquor cabinet, replacing what we took with water (which was inevitably discovered, resulting in one of my many teenage groundings). One such party – in broad daylight – involved emptying the contents of my refrigerator into the backyard built-in pool: sour cream, frozen vegetables, a pot roast. I could not tell you WHY we did such a ridiculous thing, although it was likely a food fight that got out of hand. And suddenly, way earlier than expected, my parents came walking into the backyard, open-mouthed in disbelief. The partygoers (other than me, of course) scattered, but not before hearing my mother, in her fury, scream at me, “I give you an inch and you take the whole arm!”, a cliché mash-up that has provided decades of amusement among my friends who were there that fateful (but thoroughly entertaining) day.
Robin’s and my houses were not the only popular party sites, though. Another one of our classmates (who sadly wasn’t at the reunion, and I’ve been really disappointed that she hasn’t confirmed my friend requests on Facebook because I’d love to see what she’s been up to all these years) had the absolute best party house. Her mother was a night-shift nurse, leaving us an empty house for hours in the evening with no danger of being discovered. Those parties were also an opportunity to commingle with the boys from Chaminade, a local Catholic school, which was a good way to enhance the available male talent pool, so to speak. In fact, one of my high school friends actually married a guy from Chaminade that she met at one of those parties. At the reunion, where they showed, on a loop, a montage of photos from our high school days that Colin had assembled, a delightful portrait of them from their junior prom kept coming up on the screen.
And then there was the ultimate party: the senior class trip, an event that, as a direct result of the debauchery of my class, was permanently discontinued afterward. On a side table at the reunion (next to a plate full of some of the most delicious brownies I’ve ever eaten), Colin had displayed a folder full of historical high school documents, including a student council list of “do’s and don’t’s” for the trip. Prominently featured on that list was “NO LIQUOR!” Well, many of the suitcases that came on the bus with us to the upstate dude ranch contained not a stitch of clothes but full cases of beer. “You said no liquor,” the kids would later offer as a defense, “but you didn’t say no BEER.” I don’t remember much of the senior trip, having spent the bulk of it on the bottom bunk behind a blanket with an adorable kid who, in my memory, always reminds me of Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (also, unhappily, not a reunion attendee), but evidently the highlight of the weekend was a dousing of a particularly persnickety teacher with a fire extinguisher, which left a telltale trail of neon yellow in the snow.
Ah, those days! We were admittedly naughty, but that’s when things were the most fun and memorable. On the other hand, there didn’t seem to be the danger that pervades today’s youth. We rode our bikes everywhere, at every hour of the day and night, and never wore helmets. (In fact, in one particularly vivid and memorable episode, a bunch of girls snuck out from a slumber party and headed to the local park, where we were accosted by a wave of guys riding naked on their bicycles.) Remember, these were the days before cell phones, so our parents never had a clue where we were (and frankly, I think they preferred it that way). There were no guns. There were drugs, and in fact a couple of my closest friends both lost brothers to drug overdoses, but most of my classmates mostly indulged in nothing stronger than beer, marijuana and whatever liquor we could steal out of our parents closets (or whatever we could convince someone’s older brother or sister – the aforementioned Robin’s sister was particularly helpful in this regard – to buy for us from the local liquor store, including a stomach-turning concoction in a bottle called Tango, a sort of screwdriver made with vodka and Tang, Southern Comfort, and Boone’s Farm Apple/Cherry/Blackberry Wine). I can’t recall a single pregnancy scare or unwed mother, but, then again, in those days it still would have been a major scandal and very much kept under wraps. In some ways, the girls of that time were kind of prudish, despite the ready availability of birth control, and this created a situation for which I personally suffered some ostracism and abuse, but that’s another story for another day.
There was something more innocent about that time, back in the late ‘70s. Or maybe I’m just remembering it through rose-colored memory glasses. Admittedly, there were moments of pain and shame in high school, too, most of which I’d rather not remember (a barrage of snowballs and a bombardment with eggs are two that immediately come to mind, both courtesy of the same jerk, who fortunately did not attend the reunion – although I might have been curious to see if he had an apology in him). But for the most part, I loved high school, I loved my high school friends, and I’m glad I had the chance to see many of them again at the reunion, easily able to reminisce and laugh together again after all these years.
[A small word about politics: Our gang was so simpatico at the reunion that politics barely entered the conversation (if at all), which was probably a good thing given that our class is represented by more than a few Trump supporters. But I did manage to have a satisfying little rant post-party with my reunion roomie – who adorably was still able to fit in her cheerleader skirt and sweater, although the saddle shoes were a later vintage – and another one of our mates, sitting on the stoop of the hotel in a misty rain on an unseasonably warm January night, just to remind ourselves that there are a lot of free and reasonable thinkers from Seaford, too. In fact, my OPA group was founded by and includes a number of Seafordites, which makes me proud, although the same could not be said about ALL of my classmates, based on their posts on Facebook.]
A good time was had by all of the sixty or so folks who attended the reunion. I hope we don’t have to wait another forty years to do it again!
Seaford High School Class of ’77 (2018) (Photo credit: William Moseley / BBA Photography)