Don't You Forget About Me

Will you recognize me?
Call my name or walk on by
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down, down.
A funny thing happened on the way to my 20 year high school reunion. I had my bag packed, ticket in hand and was on my way to the airport, when I changed my mind about attending. I'm sure Rick thought I was kidding when I told him to turn the car around, but I wasn't. I just couldn't get on that plane.
In all fairness, it had been a rough week, a rough year, for that matter, and I just wasn’t on my game.
The girls and I had spent the past eleven months living in San Diego, while Rick worked in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He commuted back and forth every two weeks, spending a long weekend with the family in between. We knew there was a good possibility that before the year's end, we'd be moving our household, and Rick's business to south Florida.
The previous year, Rick had been transferred unexpectedly from Belgium to Brazil. We'd purchased a house north of San Diego, where my parents lived, so we'd have a place to stay on longer vacation trips home to the States. When we hit some snags with the move to Brazil, the San Diego house seemed like a good place for us to perch for a while.
We'd been relatively happy in California. The girls had adapted well, and it was nice to live nearby my family. We'd moved our horses, dogs and cats back from Europe, which was no easy feat. As far as Florida was concerned, I didn't relish another cross-country move, but was willing to do what I had to do, to get our family back together again.
When it became apparent that we would indeed be trekking back east, we decided to take the time to build a house on a small acreage, in a horse farming community. I don't remember any significant protestations from the girls, who were happy in California, probably because we'd sold them on the idea of living on a farm.
We arrived in Wellington, Florida, an equestrian community just outside of Palm Beach, the last week of August, 1997, the week that Princess Diana died. We were living in a furnished rental, awaiting the completion of our house and barn. The horses were still in California, which was just as well because it was hotter than Hades outside, and the humidity was unbearable. We needed a week or two to adjust to the weather change before tackling the outdoors.
For the most part, the girls sat glued to the television set, along with the rest of the world, watching as the former Princess was laid to rest. Every so often, a stray gecko would race across the living room floor, the girls would squeal, and the bored dogs would rise to see what the fuss was about.
At least a half dozen of the creepy little critters would make a mad dash for the air-conditioned interior each time we’d open the front door. I was initially horrified at the thought of sharing a house with a colony of lizards, but realized I’d have to get over it. I was, after all, living in the tropics.
The morning after we arrived, I awoke to the sight of no less than fifty sucker-toed tree frogs stuck to the living room window. Rick said they could feel the cool air on the other side of the glass. I kept the blinds closed to avoid having to look at them.
The kids were thrilled when they realized that our backyard sat on a small canal but, their euphoria subsided when we noticed the alligators sunning themselves twenty-five feet from the porch door. Small dogs and cats, beware! Florida was going to take some getting used to.
I’d been planning for some time, to attend my high school reunion. Rick had graciously offered to stay with the kids, so I’d be flying solo. I hadn't seen my old friends since college and thought the reunion would provide me with a much needed though brief, break. I was to leave on a Saturday morning and return on Sunday. The girls were to start school the following Monday.

The day before I left, we set out to make the obligatory visit to each school to sign paperwork. At the first school, I was informed that the kids didn't have the required immunizations. How on earth could that be? We’d only recently returned from Europe, and the kids had spent two weeks in a Brazilian school before attending school in California. It never occurred to me to check the health requirements for attendance in the Florida system. Apparently, the recent influx of immigrants from the Caribbean, had caused some health concerns, so everybody had to pay the piper.
I was in a complete panic. It was late Friday afternoon and I couldn't get an appointment anywhere. After an anguished search, I managed to find a clinic on the wrong side of town, that would take the girls, first thing Saturday morning.
To say the morning was a whirlwind, would be an understatement. I dragged the kids, kicking and screaming to the clinic, ran home to shower and dress, threw my bag into the car, and was headed off to the airport.
The kids, miserable and homesick, didn't want me to go, and I admit to feeling a bit squeamish about leaving them. I looked back as we pulled out of the drive, and saw their little faces pressed up against the living room’s plate glass window, moist with condensation, watching us, through a spattering of tree frogs. It was like a scene out of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.
I was completely discombobulated, so it was a good thing that Rick was driving. About a minute from the airport, I glanced down and noticed that I'd forgotten my jewelry, wedding rings and all. My heart was pounding and I felt queasy. How could I arrive at my high school reunion with no jewelry? What would people think? I flipped down the visor and glanced in the mirror. No earrings either, and with the humidity at ninety-some percent, I was having a real, bad-hair-day. That's when I told Rick I wasn't going.
Stunned, Rick tried to talk me out of canceling, but the more he encouraged me to go, the more adamant I became. What difference was my presence at the reunion going to make? Absolutely none, I reasoned. Nobody would really miss me. I wasn’t a class officer, a cheerleader, an athlete or an academic scholar. I was just me, and I didn't have anything I needed to prove by going, so what was the point? He turned into the airport drive, followed the signs back to the exit, and we returned home.
I've thought about that moment for years. I was a well seasoned traveller, and I’d left the kids before, under worse circumstances. What on earth had really possessed me to cancel that trip, just a mile from the airport? Certainly, it wasn't because I'd forgotten my jewelry. I wasn't that shallow.
In retrospect, I think I was probably more nervous about going back to Michigan, than I was willing and able to admit, but why? I’m not a terribly shy or insecure person, and overall, I enjoyed high school. So what was the big deal? Why was I so anxious?

Will you stand above me?
Look my way, never love me
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down
Perhaps I’ll never be able to say for certain, but as we prepare for Rick’s thirty-five year class reunion, I can’t help but wonder if other people have experienced a similar anxiety.
The time I spent in high school, was just that, a moment in time. It was a time and place between the nursery and the real world, where we could work through our growing pains, without being devastated by them. High school didn't define me, but the life experience and lessons learned there, did impact the person I am today. That's undeniable.
While flipping through my high school yearbook recently, I was struck by a photo taken of a large group of us, sitting in the bleachers, at some event or other, during our senior year. The smiling faces were animated, and we were cheering excitedly, collectively. No single person appeared more important than any other in the photo. We were all, equally enthusiastic.
I looked more closely at the faces, and tried to recall the names of the people sitting around me, and realized that I couldn’t recall at least a quarter of them. In fact, I may not have even known some of those seated around me, but that didn’t stop us from sitting together, laughing together and cheering together. It warmed my heart to look at the photo. A single moment in time, captured forever.
It became apparent to me then, that my experience in high school was a shared experience. We were collectively, the Lahser Class of 1977. There had never been one before us, and there will never be one again. Further more, my absence was missed. Not attending, was like erasing my face from the group photo, leaving a little hole where I should have been.
When we left high school, we left our collective and went forth into the world to individualize our life experience. Some went off to college, some did not. Some were married and became parents, while others found callings elsewhere. We found new identities as we grew and became what we were intended to become.
When celebrating a class reunion, we celebrate our collective self, not our individual selves. Like bees that have left the hive, we return with little bits of the world outside, our life stories and experiences, and share them with the collective.
Don't you try to pretend
It's my feeling we'll win in the end
I won't harm you or touch your defenses
Vanity and security

If I was fearful, of attending my twenty-year reunion, I shouldn’t have been. Like bees to honey, those that attended were drawn there. They weren’t forced or coerced into coming back. When I asked Rick his reason for attending his class reunion, he responded by saying he felt it was ‘good for the soul’ to go back. He didn’t elaborate.
I’m not sure what lead me to this place, where I have a greater appreciation for my own history but, I’m glad I made it thus far. I’ll have another opportunity in two years, to celebrate our moment in time. This time, God willing, I’ll be there. I won’t get cold feet.

Don't you, forget about me
Don't, don't, don't, don't
Don't you forget about me

Don't You Forget About Me was performed by Simple Minds in 1985 for the movie, the Breakfast Club.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for helping me realize I never want to move to Florida. I'd love to go to a HS reunion sometime. I haven't been able to b/c I've either been in labor or had just had a baby for the past couple we've had so far. Maybe next time. Facebook really helps bring these connections closer. I think it's changed the way reunions are enjoyed and celebrated.