This past weekend was my 20th high school reunion, as well as Andrea and I’s 12th wedding anniversary. Needless to say, the weekend was dripping with sentimentality, nostalgia, flashbacks and, of course, alcohol. A lot of it (not the alcohol, thankfully) continues to stick with me.
While the boys hung out at grandma’s house, Andrea and I made the trek up to my old high school in North Jersey, a place that I’ve been to maybe twice in the last 20 years. Since my parents moved away from the area just before Benjamin was born, I have only been in my hometown (extended hometown) just once in the last six years. Even though the trip up was in the dark, it became a gut churning journey down memory lane that would serve as only the prelude to a complete time warp.
As I hung out in the “old gym” (as it is called now) and wandered the hallways with my wife and old friends, I marveled at just how quickly time can pass and just how much things can change while still remaining the same. The school, while having undergone some dramatic changes, still retains most of the key areas that we knew as students…enough to make it feel familiar and even a bit comfortable. The jokes and conversations echoed back through the last twenty years and while faces, hairlines and waist sizes have changed, the laughter hasn’t. To see the faces of old crushes and ‘kids’ I admired and respected weathered by time (fabulously, I must add) and children warmed my heart…a few I had even known since I was seven years old (31 YEARS!). It a was true joy to be there and catch up with these ghosts from my past.
And not all the ghosts were friendly, either. When I think back to just how painfully shy I was in my first two years of high school, those halls, especially the “freshman” hallway, dragged up memories of hopelessness that I hadn’t felt in 22 years. I can remember my very first day of school there, looking up and down that hallway and feeling utterly lost and confused, looking into some of those faces that felt comfortable now, with suspicion and maybe even a bit of fear. While I was never bullied or even the butt of jokes, my own insecurities would beat me down on a daily basis in those hallways.
However, I shared the night with a few of the best friends I have ever known in my life, and while I’ve been in touch with them on and off through the years, there was almost a feeling of home to be back in some of the same places and talking about some of the same things that we did back then. They were the ones that helped me through those early dark days and helped me create truly special memories. I would see a couple of the biggest victories in my life as a result of these friends and even acquaintances in those hallways. They were victories that would lead to so many more great memories and set the pace for the rest of my life.
And to be there, with the best friend I have ever known in Andrea on the eve of our 12th anniversary, really just made it that much more special. I honestly believe that if it weren’t for those great (and even not-so-great) moments experienced in those hallways, my path would have never lead to the woman I love and the two wonderful children.
This is were my journey took me into the future and thoughts of my children. (I do need to be honest, Andrea and I only get a night away from the kids maybe three times a year, so I wasn’t thinking too much about them as I drank down my wine and beer.) I couldn’t help but think about the boys and what their futures would hold. They should go through school just a year apart and while the potential of them being each others best friends is very strong, I can only hope and pray that they find a solid group of friends and their overall high school experience is just as memorable. I hope that they surround themselves with the same caliber of friends I was fortunate enough to know throughout my life. I pray they don’t struggle with the same insecurities that made some days darker than other for me, but I hope that if they do, they will have the friends to help them through it. My biggest hope for them is that one day they find the love that I have known for the last 17 years (Andrea and I met in the fall of 1994).
I joked with Andrea as we drove there that her, Benjamin, Matthew and the Mets 2000 NL Championship ring on my finger was all that I had to show for the last 20 years. If that statement were really true, you could take away the ring, include my friends and family and my cup would still “runneth over”.