Sunday, July 18, 2010

Irreversibly A Grown-Up ...

Well, I guess it's too late now.

I think I'm stuck with being an adult.

Yesterday, I went to a retirement bash for four people, two of whom were part of my high-school experience, two of whom were not, but all of whom are friends.

It was a three-hour open house, in a house I'd only heard about, a very grand house, not at all what I had conjured in my mind. But then, why I had conjured that particular picture, I have no idea.

I arrived about halfway through the fete, and rang the doorbell, wondering if I should just let myself in.

But the door opened, and there was Rob, one of two of my high-school past.

I never had Rob as a teacher, unless you count homeroom. But Rob was very involved with the theatrical productions, and we spent many Saturday mornings together in the auditorium, before the bustle of the day began, before others arrived, talking about whatever it was we talked about at the time.

Throughout my entire educational career, I always got along better with my instructors than my peers.

Rob ushered me into the grand house, into the parlor, one of the parlors, where Kris, the home's owner, was holding forth. I very much like Kris. Kris likes scotch. Which, really, says a lot about a person.

Having never been to his house before, and incapable of arriving at an event without something in my hands, I handed him a bottle of champagne, and told him how much I loved his house. "It's very subtle," I said.

It is the furthest thing from subtle. It is jammed with furniture and paintings and rugs and collections and stained glass. It is spectacular. It's like stepping back in time.

I said hello to a few folks and followed Rob toward the bar that had been set up in the back of the house. Which is where I saw Gail, one of the other retirees. I hugged her and said, "You look like you just got out of surgery." Meaning her outfit, on a ridiculously warm day, reminded me of scrubs, a loose, pretty linen version.

Drink in hand, I followed Rob into the dining room, where I spied Dave, who was one of my high-school instructors and continues to be a dear friend.

When I first met Dave, as a junior, I appreciated that he liked to wear a pink shirt from time to time. I like men in pink shirts. Pale pink suits men.

The shirt Dave was wearing last night was not pale. It was almost exactly the color of bubble gum. And was set off by a blue foulard bow tie. And electric blue Buddy Holly-esque glasses. And an exaggerated Fu Manchu mustache. As if a Fu Manchu mustache is not exaggerated enough.

He also happened to be wearing khaki pants and brown sandal-y shoes. (Given what I just described about him, I thought it bore mentioning that he was wearing pants. One might have wondered.)

Dave is very much his own person, which is one of the many reasons I love him.

Driving to Kris's house, I was wondering if other past students would be there as well. As I made my way to Dave in the dining room, I spied Laura, whom I hadn't seen since we graduated, but with whom I've reconnected on Facebook.

She was there with her husband, Ken. It was delightful to see her. We endured a semester of English together our junior year. Awful teacher. In that she didn't actually teach anything. We were pretty much left to our own devices.

And yet, I managed to get only a B that semester.

Laura and I chatted until she and Ken had to leave, at which point, I decided I should move from that one spot in the dining room. Mingle, as it were.

I did finally see Karen, the fourth woman who was being feted. Folks were making their exits as the clock ticked toward 7 p.m. I saw Gail, who asked, "You're not leaving, are you?"

"I can stick around for a bit," I said.

The caterers had packed up and left, so I helped Gail consolidate everything onto the kitchen table where folks passed by and grazed.

Kris still held forth from the front parlor. A group of us gathered around the kitchen table. The parlor gaggle eventually disbanded, some folks heading home, others heading upstairs to go to bed. Kris joined us in the kitchen.

And so there were the four honorees - Dave, Gail (Dave's wife), Rob, and Karen - along with Mary (Rob's wife), Kris, and me, and I felt for a moment like a kid again, and it felt for a moment like all those evenings when my parents had friends over and the talking and laughing continued long after I had to go to bed, except this time, I was one of the grown ups, I got to be part of the din.

It felt a little weird. Good weird, but weird.

Dave was sitting next to me, animatedly telling a story, which is the only way Dave is able to tell a story, and I looked at him and thought, "I met you when I was 15. How have I known you for 25 years?"

But 25 years it's been.

I think a big part of the disconnect is Rob's fault. (And I say that with love, Rob.) With the exception of not wearing the glasses I remember him wearing in high school, Rob has not changed. At all. He looks exactly the same. The man doesn't have a grey hair in his head. It's like "... Dorian Gray," but different.

At one point, Dave was making up a poem – more of an absurd rhyme, really – that included the word "smelt." I thought that might be a good time to go. But I stayed, until I glanced at the clock on the microwave and said, "Well, will you look at the time!" It had gotten to be 10 p.m.

So we cleared the table and everyone gathered their things and Rob wanted to get a picture of folks, so I took the camera so all the teacherly types could be in the picture together.

I can't begin to figure how many years of experience and expertise are represented in that photograph. I do know, though, that students who will walk the halls of my former high school this fall will be the poorer for not having Dave and Rob there to help guide them.

Here's hoping that someday those students have occasion to sit around a kitchen table with some of their teachers and appreciate the contribution those people made to their lives.

On to the next adventure, all around.


Blogger Rick Hamrick said...

My eldest spawn is much the same when it comes to who she was comfortable with.

As early as ten years old, when she was in a production of Annie which ran for a couple of months, she would routinely be hanging out in the dressing room with the adult actors while all the rest of the kids were in the other dressing room. She was the youngest of the orphans, yet the least interested in being around them when off stage.

4:20 PM  
Anonymous natalie said...

And I am more comfortable around kids...go figure.

10:34 AM  

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