High school doesn’t end, it reunites

Two weeks ago I got a message that the Homecoming Queen at the high school I’d gone to had called. Maybe you’d expect this would be good news. But remembering what I did about my pre-alma mater alma mater, the mighty MHS, I confess I immediately summoned from within some of the self-help mantras that might be found in therapy.
Sure, I remembered her — the Class of ’88, fellow student council member, cheerleader, if I remember correctly, and probably voted “least likely to offend” or maybe even “least ridiculous.” But reading the rest of the message, my stomach sank, my heart sped up and a sense of terror overtook me.
It read: “call re: ten year reunion.”
OK, first things first. MHS was a fine place to get an education — as if that’s what many of us were there for. Unfortunately, too much of the student body’s time on and off campus was spent — as it was, I imagine, in most Midwest suburban high schools — looking for love, drugs and neurosis in all of the wrong places.
I read the note again and had to reassure myself: of course the glory days of dazed and confused teenage bliss are gone. Will pretending that today is any less glorious make the past look better? Ten unnoticed but eventful years swept away with a phone call.
As it turns out, I have some sort of stake in what is supposed to happen at this summer escapade. Since I served some time on the student council my senior year, I’m supposed to help in putting together some of the 10-year activities.
Hence, the phone call. And the bells toll.
Everyone has imagined this event coming, even before we graduate. We deeply believe that confronting our classmates and having to prove that our lives have amounted to something shouldn’t matter less.
We still fantasize, though, that an experience more rewarding than any of those from the “glory days of yore” will come out of reuniting with the old commiserates.
We just realize a dose of terror, that even though it was a long time coming, something closer to the apocalypse faces every graduate’s life when this event approaches. Imagine too, having to take an active part in putting it all together.
There’s already been one of these events come and gone: the dreaded five year reunion. No one was expected to show — not even anyone on the student council.
As fate — or fortune — would have it, I was too messed up after a nasty car accident to attend that one. I still hardly know anyone who reported attending or knew anything about what happened.
Can’t say that I regret it either, although I doubt I’d welcome anything like another car wreck this summer. On the other hand, I’ve fantasized dumping school, jobs and everything else and taking a nice long trip to Bermuda with my wife for the entire summer.
A few sources — friends I’ve kept in touch with and the few who actually went to the five-year reunion — have said the same meaningless thing: “It wasn’t that bad.” Even the most impassioned pleas for more details only illicit, “Well, you know, it wasn’t any worse than expected.”
These comments haven’t given me much to go on, but they still haven’t lessened the sense of fear and loathing of having to go through with something so seemingly inevitable.
So now I’m in the bind that everyone else who didn’t go to the five-year reunion must also be in. We’ve got to be wondering about many of the same sorts of things and this impending ego fest.
First: If I don’t go, will I still respect myself in the morning? My guess is that everyone will answer “yes” to this one.
And second, of course: Who is going to be there, who won’t and why would it matter? I can only imagine bunches of people who will probably fall into just a few categories.
1) People who were drunks and dope fiends in high school and still are, or have sobered up and are no longer recognizable.
2) People who were straight edge students and are now drunks and dope fiends, beyond recognition; or have stayed on the straight edge and are too busy selling futures for the Hong Kong stock exchange, scripting Hollywood movies or still working on the Strategic Defense Initiative to attend.
3) The average, slightly misanthropic kid who got sick of the Midwest and might make it back to a 10-year reunion only because he or she has nothing to lose. Plus they heard that HÅsker DÅ was talking about a reunion tour this summer.
4) The average, slightly misanthropic kid who stayed in the Midwest and is terrified of seeing any of the above because he knows that they’ve all got something better to do than return to Minneapolis only to attend a 10-year reunion and see all of the people they desperately wanted to get away from for 18 years of their lives anyway (unless they have traveled thousands of miles only to show everyone else how much of a hot-shot they think they are — which only makes it worse — or are too dumb to know how much of a loser they have really become — which doesn’t make it better — or who remained at home and have done the same thing that they’ve done their whole life with a few satisfying variations that everyone else wouldn’t pay attention to and still wonder where the heck everyone went and if it really wasn’t so bad here, why only a 10-year reunion could bring anyone back) when he knows that Minneapolis isn’t so great if you’ve lived here you’re entire life and really just wonders how long it will take before this whole state drives him nuts.
5) The people who refuse to go to a 10-year reunion because high school was hell and the legacy of everything afterwards wasn’t any better. Why relive it?
6) The handful of people that have an interest in reliving days spent with a few of the classmates that anyone getting a public education in this country might have had the opportunity to build a common bond with.
If the people in the last category show any indication of attending, I guess I’ll do what I have to do to make it too.
Let’s just keep it minimalist. Sure, bring back HÅsker DÅ, throw in some Leinies and get plenty of Risk boards set up for an all nighter at Steve-o’s.
Only then would it be time to break out the stogies and reminisce about the good old days. If there is a “happily ever after” to this whole scene, maybe it will go something like:
“Remember when there was a Berlin Wall?”
“Yeah, and South Africa was ruled by Apartheid.”
“But the Atari set was king.”
“Geez, the space shuttle blew up and now NASA’s on Mars.”
“And remember when the Stones were the only band that sounded like the Stones.”
“Yeah, and Tom Bernard was actually cool.”
“Two words: Spit Girls.”
“Reagan and Bush were tied up with the Iran-Contra thing.”
“And now Clinton’s got his Willie slick.”
“Wild Bill. The captain of the hockey team. Dressed up as the Skip the Duck mascot. He brought us to state in ’84. What ever happened to Wild Bill?”
“He’s in the Gulf again.”
“No way.”
“Way!”
“God, I hated that duck.”

Greg “Borch” Borchard’s column appears every Thursday. He can be reached with comments via e-mail at [email protected]