Friday, October 14, 2011

Reunion Games

Duke Power State Park, Summer 1990

"Time makes you bolder, children get older, and I'm getting bolder, too."  
                                                    --from "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac 

On the way back from taking the SAT, Lisa Sawyer shut my head up in the back window.  That's only one of the dangers of big cars with electric buttons.  Why was my head hanging out the window?  Oh, you don't know me very well if you're asking that question.  It was a Saturday afternoon in the Fall, and it was Highway 150 between Salisbury and Mooresville, NC.  I didn't recognize it then as the big step towards the end of high school, towards obtaining my ticket out of town.  Filling in circle after circle, gesture after gesture to say in a quiet, number 2 pencil way, "Gotta go, see ya, this was always going to happen.  You, you go that direction, I'll go this one.  I don't know where you're going, but you're not going with me.  I'm 18 and I'm going thatta way."

Bam.  Fizzle.  Click.  Buzz.  Ouch.  20 years pass, and it's time to head back to town.  To the Reunion at Beaver Dam (yes, I'm already planning the Flannery O'Conner short story/screenplay that's been going gothic southern since the pre-planning days a year ago).  I'm in charge of the Powerpoint presentation of old pictures...and games.  All those with Buster Pointdexter bangs will be highlighted and grouped.  I might go looking for trivia questions...and games.  People hate games.  Why wouldn't that stop me?  Oh, you don't know me very well if you're asking that question.  Here are some ideas I'm toying with:   

1.  Last Chance Cheerleading Pyramid
Be Aggressive.  Be Passive-Aggressive...Putting your knee in someone else's back never gets old, so if you were super-beautiful in high school and won any sort of crown, we're going to need you on the bottom row.  It seems like there's never an in-depth discussion of someone's high school days without a self-description of where you fit in the beauty order.  We hang on to old stories about what you were or what you weren't.  With each layer of our pyramid, we'll say, "Now if you think you were dissed or overlooked or a little turtle afraid to talk or sickened by good looking people...if you ever wanted a chance to be on top, climb on up there little monkey."  It will be brief, that moment on top because backs are tender now and human pyramids are always fragile -- and someone from down below is going to fuss.  They might even holler up to the top, "Dumbass!  You got it all wrong.  They said I was beautiful, but I thought I was ugly.  Big difference.  Huge."   

2.  Roads Not Taken  
Circle up people.  Yes, you can hold on to your pumpkin martini.  Fun.  This is going to be super-fun.  Super-super fun.  It's an improv game that you might've been informally rehearsing over the past 20 years, but that's okay.  Don't beat yourself about over-achieving on your regret list.  We'll go around the circle and you can say, "I should've..."  "I never..."  "The worst decision I've made so far was..."  Then we'll improv dance to "True Colors" with these ribbons that I'm getting at Micheal's, and we'll release all that crap and you'll go away thinking that you never knew reunions could be so therapeutic. 

3.  The No-Games Game
This game will happen all night, kind-of like a murder mystery dinner, but with less snappy dialogue.  You'll know when you're playing it because you'll feel all warm and the hug will feel real, and you'll get that feeling that you rarely get these days, that feeling that you're standing with someone whose known you since you were 5.  They do look different but exactly the same, their little baby face still in-tact.  Remember accidentally turned and popped that girl's sister in the eye with your softball bat?  You fell off a horse with her at a birthday party.  You and her and her and her went and serenaded him "Top Gun" style under his window when he was supposed to be studying.  You sat beside her on the bus to New York City in the 10th grade and no one said anything when you bawled through Steel Magnolias off-Broadway.  You played tennis with her for years and years and she helped you find your retainer in the Wendy's trash.  You thought her and her and him should've gotten more attention and more of a push to go to college and more scholarship money like you did, but you know that only happened to you because you were white.   They should've been in the car to take the SAT.  

So we'll gather under trees and on a big porch and we'll say in quiet and loud ways, "Hey!  We're here.  We're back.  You...after all this time.  This was always going to happen.  We were always going to come back together.  You look great...I'm really happy to see you.  Really happy..."