Every so often I open up my gmail to the pleasant surprise of a string of messages from childhood friends planning a get-together. These are women who I went to high school with over three decades ago. All of them live in California except for three of us. I’m in Virginia and the other two are in Connecticut and New York City. We went through a long stretch of time before starting these reunion type weekends. In fact, the first that I recall being included was a few years ago in Palm Springs. It was so much fun to reconnect that we decided to do it again a couple years later when we all turned fifty.
There are a few ring leaders of the group who invite all of us from smaller close knit friendship alliances. In other words, we were from different high school cliques but through the course of time we have formed a larger cohesive group, bound together by shared childhood memories and varying links with one another through the years. Some were in school with me starting in kindergarten, others were on the same swim team, and others were simply classmates and school friends. A couple attended the same college as I did.
Our weekend meet-ups are usually filled with laughter and tale telling of former teachers and silly teenage behavior. Each one of us leaves behind our families, jobs, pets, and lives to step back in time for a few days. The people we surround ourselves with in the present are not familiar with our past identities, no longer are we known as the cheerleader, the lead actress in the play, or the boy crazy airhead. Several of the women I met with this weekend were what I would have referred to as the “girls most likely to succeed.” They earned high grades, were student-athletes, held school government positions, and got into top academic universities. Their hair was also perfect. This was not exactly the case for me, social life and boys were my priorities then, and I had to work hard to keep my naturally curly hair from frizzing out. I was friendly to different groups, but my squad tended to hang out during lunch period leaning against our cars in the parking lot instead of the library. Sometimes we cut 5th period to watch episodes of General Hospital at my friend’s house. We did not have social media then, thank God! Our teenage behavior stays back where it belongs. It’s only on these high school reunion type weekends that I am reminded of those days.
This past New York getaway started with a charity gala that I was not able to attend (due to my youngest son’s senior game). My Connecticut friend was the organizer and gave a speech. I would have liked to be there, as her dedication and passion to this project is inspiring. My friends also partied with special guest Sheena Easton. By the time I caught up with my old friends it was time for a second wind. We rallied, grabbed a quick bite of New York pizza then walked around Central Park. It was a strange thing to be passing by locals walking dogs and jogging while catching up with my 5th grade classmates. A collision of distant memories with unfamiliar territory. We ate dinner at a fabulous steakhouse and then got whisked off for a surprise show, planned by our northeastern hostesses.
The surprise show was inside an old speakeasy called the McIntry Hotel. It was a mentalist magic show. The entire night was jaw dropping, not because of any visual tricks, but how this strange man with an accent read the minds of audience members. My initial skepticism changed over to curiosity and frustration. Instead of muttering the word, “plant” and accusing actors of being in the speakeasy, I began to ask, “How is he doing this?” A few glasses of champagne and I just felt entertained and wowed. There had to be a method for his being able to read words that people wrote down on papers and ripped up. Miniature cameras all over the ceiling maybe? (Here goes the skeptic in me…)
Our next morning was something heavenly, that is a fixed part of a New Yorker’s schedule, Sunday Brunch. We went down to the meat packing district, much more delicious than that sounds. It was stylish, delicious and a two hour event. Bloody Mary’s, a waffle tower, and suchacha (some kind of yummy egg and sausage dish) made this a delightful Sunday. Then we shopped and took a brief nap before hitting Broadway.
I bought tickets for this show as soon as I learned we were going to New York. The cost of the orchestra seats were as much as my airline tickets. It’s not every day that I am in New York going to a Broadway musical, so why not splurge! Here’s the interesting part, I am in New York meeting up with this group of high school friends and what are we seeing? Mean Girls. This show is based on the movie by Tina Fey. It’s about the clique’s in high school, the bossy mean girls, and just trying to fit in. How crazy is it for me to be attending this show with people that I sometimes felt left out or wanting to be included?
As we all grow older and find our inner confidence that we may have lacked in teenage years, we realize that the walls that separated us or the cliques that we belonged to were just our ways of surviving high school. The musical Mean Girls was wonderful at illustrating this through great songs, acting, and humor. Sitting beside me was actually my daughter who was in town visiting her college roommates. She met up with me for this show. I cannot think of anyone I’d rather be with than my daughter to enjoy this fun and meaningful show. It was fitting that on my mind were my different old friends that I’d just reconnected with. The cheerleader, the smarty-pants, the athlete, the actress… These girls are now grown women who are leaders, partners, mothers, and soon-to-be-grandmothers. I feel grateful for the chance to go down memory lane with them and to continue to call them friends as we enter another season of life.
I return home to my family, my puppies, and to my friends in Virginia. These Virginian women may not know about the 16 year old girls that I was, and they may never know. But they do know me now and what is on my heart these days. They are fun to be around. We laugh at memories from the last ten years together, and continue to plan for time together in the future. I am grateful for these friends too. Sometimes you need to get a little distance to appreciated what is right in your backyard. For me, that’s two muddy dogs running around in the rain!