"Oh, no," I said. "Maybe two hours, max."
And I meant it. Actually, I was following the time-honored, custom programming estimate philosophy. I took the amount of time I thought I'd actually want to spend at the reunion get-together, and tripled it, then added another half hour.
Besides the other planning committee members, whom I'd gotten to know during the course of helping plan the reunion, I knew maybe two other people who were coming. And really, how long could it possibly take to say hi to them, grab some food, catch up a little on what they'd been doing, and beat feet for the street? Surely no more than a half-hour.
You have to realize: in school, I was a theater/choir/creative writing geek. (Or, as my friend Sharon put it, "an arts geek.") Theater geeks of my graduating class just really aren't the kind of people who put any importance on a high-school reunion. I know I didn't -- I only showed up to the first planning meeting to offer to throw up a website for 'em. I never thought I'd actually get caught up in planning the thing! School spirit? No way. It just wasn't us. There were only about 15 people whose names I recognized at all, and out of them, only two of them were anything even close to friends in high school. Even worse, most of the names I recognized were those of people who -- well, let's be blunt -- were kind of assholes.
So, here I am, thinking, "Why am I going to a party full of people that I never would have associated with in school?" I wasn't totally looking forward to it.
Flash forward to the night of the get-together.
Charlie and I drove down in silence. He hadn't been feeling well all day, but he agreed to go anyway. This didn't make him really happy. When we got there, I tentatively offered to let him go back home, and I'd just come back by myself. I should be clear: this wasn't one of those snotty, martyrish, "I'm going to be hurt beyond all recognition and will never forgive you if you go home but I'm saying it anyway" kind of offers. I knew he wasn't feeling well, and it would have been okay. I would have liked to have him there, so I could show off my trophy husband, but I also didn't want him to be sitting there, feeling sick, while I caught up with a bunch of people he didn't even know. So, yeah, I made the offer, but he just snapped, "I'm here NOW," and we went in.
Hmm. Things were not looking good for a pleasant evening. Well, I did try!
I looked around to see if I knew anyone: I didn't. Then I heard someone yell out, "Hey, there she is!" and saw one of my fellow committee members waving and grinning like mad.
"I think that's them over there," I said, rather unnecessarily to Charlie. He just looked at me.
They had a little table set up, and we got our envelopes (that contained our drink tokes, and ticket for the next night's event). I introduced Charlie, and we chatted a bit, then just sort of blended into a corner for awhile. The side of the bar where our stuff was set up was already kind of crowded, and there were only about ten people there.
After a few minutes, Charlie went outside to smoke, and I followed him. Of course, it was raining -- well, sprinkling -- so I tried to put my umbrella up. This was my first big mistake of the evening. According to Charlie, I'm accident-prone. He likes to say that it's a good thing I'm not a carpenter or someone who works with any power tool more sophisticated than an electric screwdriver, or by now I'd end up "throwing the goat" any time I raised my hand with no need to bend any of my fingers down, if you know what I mean. I'm not sure I agree, but I do seem to have a lot more bruises most of the time than I probably should. Anyway, I fulfilled his image of me this night by managing to catch a fold of my finger in between the pieces of the umbrella that snap into place. Said pieces snapped into place, and the first blood of the evening was spilled.
"YOW! HOLY SHIT," I exclaimed intelligently.
Well, it did get a grin out of Charlie, so in a way, things were looking up. Damn, that hurt like hell, though. Not a good start to the evening.
After awhile, the rain stopped, and I put the umbrella down (CAREFULLY!), and we went back inside. After a bit, my friend Jenna showed up (the only one I've really kept in touch with), which was kind of a relief. One down, one to go: having talked to Jenna, I only had to wait for Laura to show up, and we could get out of there.
I'm actually not sure how it happened, but somewhere along the way between chatting with Jenna, and going out to get some food (I have no problem being the first to grab the food), and having my friends the photographers show up (in which the husband said, "My God, where's the REST of you?"), and checking on Charlie (who was hanging out with the spouse of another classmate and seemed to be doing okay), and running into a few other people (one of whom had been in school with me from first grade on), something changed. I started having fun.
One thing my mom always used to tell me when I was a kid was, if I went to a party or something, and didn't know anyone, and was feeling left out or on the side, I should look around for someone else who might also be feeling left out, and just go hang out with them. This has proven to be good advice over the years, and has gained me a lot of friends that I otherwise might not have met. I can be funny, and witty, and put people at ease, and make them feel "included," apparently. I like to be inclusive. I've felt left-out too many times to want to leave anyone else out.
The result of this is that a lot of times, at a party, I'll end up with my own little crowd, and this time was no exception. Sure, I didn't know these people, but it didn't matter -- I could get to know them now. And they were really interesting! In 20 years since high school, they'd done some really cool things. We were talking and laughing and joking around, and people would gravitate over our way, hang out for awhile, and drift off again. Even Charlie came out of his corner and came to hang out with us. (He was feeling better by that point.)
But the most amazing thing of all was that some of the people that were really snobby jerks 20 years ago had turned out to be really cool, unpretentious, nice people.
I guess, after 20 years, some people do grow up. Amazing.
It turned out to be a good thing that we were having fun, because my friend Laura and her husband (the only other people I wanted to see), had gotten stuck in traffic, and didn't make it there until around 9:30, almost past the original two-hour deadline I'd given Charlie earlier. Laura's arrival, of course, occasioned even more catching up and reminiscing and introducing of husbands, and so forth.
It was damn good to see Laura again.