…but keep the old

I still remember exactly where Peter sat in junior high French class, with his floppy 80’s hair and class clown personality. When we had to pick a French name, he picked Poseidon, delivered with nasal Parisian accent. Poh-see-DOHN.

The ever charismatic Adam, not to be outdone, chose Zeus. I had met him back in fourth grade, when he earned the dubious distinction of being That Guy Who Cut Hebrew School Class Every Week to Go Play Video Games and Finally Got Caught. He’s perhaps the most loyal friend I’ve ever known, and would lie down on a railroad track for any one of us.

Although hopefully it would be an old, non-functioning railroad track with no third rail.

Jon is quite literally my oldest friend, the former object of many high school crushes, and he used to have great fun intimidating my boyfriends with the knowledge that he had naked photos of me. Even if they were baby pictures. Sam is as sweet and kind as he is tall–and he is damn tall. When he told me he was becoming a preschool teacher I remember thinking that the world’s parents should be so lucky to have him in their children’s lives. As for Jen, she was the actress of the class with the opera-ready voice and the thing for bad boys. Instead of dating them now, she’s representing them in legal disputes. Seriously. Like, Tommy Lee bad boy.

There are a few others with varying colorful careers and lives, from accountants and doctors to actresses and NBA bigwigs. Our relationships with one another vary. But it’s amazing how, having graduated in the John Hughes era, as a group we all remain in close contact. We see each other a few times a year, generally for Super Bowl Sunday or a wedding, or to rally around an out-of-town visitor. We bring the kids, and we drag the spouses (some of them second…or third spouses, which is happens when you’re decrepit like we are), but this week was different.

This week we all gathered at a midtown bar, perhaps for the first time that I can recall, without wives. Without husbands. Without (gasp) kids.

It was the night I so so needed.

We dished about classmates–Who’s gay, who’s divorced, who’s moved back home with parents at 41, who had a ridiculous fight on Facebook, who’s going to be the next Real Housewife of NYC. We revealed real estate woes and relationship struggles. We shared family photos on our iPhones. We compared hairlines. We laughed about nearly everything until we clutched our stomachs, falling back on the low banquets and wiping tears off the pleather bolsters.

Reapplying mascara would have been futile.

In this group, I probably feel the most me that I ever do. I would imagine they do too. No one puts on airs. No one has to be On. And no one is above a good, hard, merciless ribbing.

You just can’t fake it when you’re with people who remember your frizzy hair, remember your braces, remember you crying over stupid boys or mean teachers or the time you put your mom’s Datsun into reverse instead of drive and wrapped it around a basketball pole. In a way, it’s almost like I am still that girl, for better for for worse, and we are still sitting around the cafeteria table, flicking french fries at the passers-by and laughing.

If I could go back to my ninth-grade self, I would say, Self? You may not be the most popular girl or the smartest girl or the one who always has someone to dance with when Freebird comes on. You’re not gong to marry the rich guy or be the girl with the most cake. You are who you are. And that someone is not so bad.

You’re doing something right, when these are the people you’ve drawn into your life.


33 thoughts on “…but keep the old”

  1. I have a group of old HS friends that is like this. When I was unemployed this summer, I got everyone together. It was great to see everyone and a great reminder of who I am.

  2. I wish I'd been there–though I was a hermit at MHS and would have to make up adventure stories!

    Was I the one who had the ridiculous fight on Facebook? Because I sure had one recently!

  3. That feeling is the number-one reason I hope to stop moving around once my kids start school, even if that means — *gasp* — I have to spend the rest of my life in the deep, deep, DEEP South.

    That's love, people.

  4. Yes, once someone has seen you in your headgear and decided they'll talk to you anyway, the bond is pretty unshakable, isn't it?

  5. I make it a point to talk to my Kindergarten class about the friends I still have from Kindergarten-high school. I want them to know it's possible and probable, and important!

  6. funny, i have never attended any school reunion. NONE. i felt that old schoolmates would be putting on airs, showing off their career and money, whose boobs were droopier…you know the drill.

    i'm willing to change my mind now, so i'm hoping there'd be another reunion. i hope it's not too late for me.

  7. It's great when your choice of childhood friends is vindicated by seeing the adults they become!

    Since the advent of Facebook, I've become reacquainted with a lot of high school and even grade school friends, and have met up with many of them in the flesh. Hardly any of them have turned into jerks.

    Here's the lame thing–I always have this niggling tinge of insecurity when I hang out with them. For example, my corporate lawyer friend makes me feel like a slacker (I was a carpenter and part-time teacher before becoming a SAHD). And then when I hang out with my artist and musician friends, or the guy who rides his bicycle all over NYC tuning church organs, I feel like a bit of a bourgeois drudge.

    Nice Courtney love reference, btw.

  8. Wonderfully written. Thank you. This post reminds me of a book I read last summer, “letters to my former self,” or something like that. I think it was compiled by Cokie Roberts, I can't remember. Anyway, it took 50 famous women and had them write letters from themselves now back to the selves they were when they were super young. Some were heartbreaking…some were hilarious. All very wise.

    Great book.

  9. It is amazing how strong the bonds are that we create in those “formative” years. I recently traveled to my high school reunion (which one? I won't tell). Here was a gathering of people I hadn't seen in years (since graduation day, in fact) and yet it was like coming home to an extended family – everyone knows your name.

  10. I see my best friend from high school about once every 5 years and it's just amazing how we just synch no matter how different our lives have become from each others…in fact if I think about it, our lives were so different even when we were in hs, still that synch…and the two who I have known since we sat next to each other on the first day of first grade..we'd drop anything if one or the other asked for help.

    I hope my DS and DD find friends like that…

  11. Even though I live 4 hours away, and it's been 17 years since HS graduation, I'm still close to the folks with whom I rode the school bus in elementary school, too. Going to see one of them who lives in the Village a few days before BlogHer, and it's the part of 2010 I'm most anticipating with glee.

  12. Anon, it's true, I often think that my kids' friends now could possibly be their friends for life.

    And Beta Dad, I feel truly blessed for growing up with awesome kids who became more awesome adults.

  13. it's truly awesome when you're still friends through the bad and the good. and after all those years, people still make time to get together and catch up.

    our group was splintered by a fight that forced people to take sides. birthdays and weddings are awkward now, but i'm holding out that with enough time we will all be together again–like the old times.

  14. Oh my. I'm currently in charge of my class's (gasp) 30th reunion and approach it with a combination of anticipation and dread. You're dead on — these are the people who saw me long before I figured out how to work with my hair or what “my” style — vs that of every other girl in school — was. I wish I were as enthusiastic about seeing my classmates again. I feel embarrassingly vulnerable (see above!) but am also eager to see everyone now that we've all “grown up.” More to come …

  15. I've had so many incarnations since high school, that I let a lot of those relationships slide. With my recent leap into Facebook (resisted for sooooo long), I'm back in touch with the good (and the bad and the ugly) friends from those days and it's nice. Really. Most of them have grown up into decent folks, myself included. Who woulda guessed?

  16. With the friends who knew you when you were growing up you share so many special memories. Also they got to know you before you were old enough or sophisticated enough to create a “brave face” for the world in tough, difficult, challenging or emotional times and so they above all other friends “get it” and know how you are really feeling when such times occur. My best friend from school now lives in Australia and I am here in the US (we both grew up in England) but we still keep in touch constantly and I know she would be on a plane in an instant if I needed her, as would I if the situation were reversed. We did a lot of dancing together to Freebird in our day too.

  17. Oh, that was great. I only have a few good friends from high school and none from junior high. We moved out of state right after junior high. And THOSE are the people who saw me all braced-out in the height of nerddom. BUT, I do say that all those experiences have lead me to have the relationships I have now. And those are awesome. I think nerds end up the most well-adjusted!

  18. Spent childhood as an Army brat and forged deep connections with one or two people here or there who I am still in touch with but really missed out on that feeling of a tight-knit group of people who follow you into adulthood. My kids have lived in the same town throughout their childhoods and have that, though–it's something I'm grateful for and a little jealous of at the same time.

  19. I'm totally right there with you. My best friends today have been my best friends since junior high. We've grown up together. They're rock stars and I'm so so glad I found them as early as I did. Everyone should be so lucky to have friends like mine. And like yours.

  20. Oy yes indeed. I spent a glorious evening with two of my oldest friends this weekend. We;ve known each other since the 6th and 9th grades.
    There is no other comfort like that of friendship that has lasted through all the awkward years.

  21. I do think that you can tell a lot about yourself (especially when you're in a daze, or down) by the company you keep. Too seldom do we look around at our great friends, the ones who stuck around, and recognize that they're our friends because we're pretty great, too!

    Nice post! (Though I do wish I had more of those old friends around, still.)

  22. Have just discovered your blog and it's totally a keeper! (but you knew that) Thanks.


  23. Wow, it's so fabulous that you are still in touch with that many people from that time in your life. Sounds like a great group!

  24. Oh, I LOVED my 20 yr HS reunion in 2008! Ours was a serious 2 day 3 event affair (in Texas, we do everything BIG!)and I had so much fun – you are right, the catching up, the dishing, the gossip and the gasps (THAT geek is now hot and who's that with him? His 20 yr old HOT wife and their *ahem* 2.5 yr old daughter??!) Or the quiet unassuming kid that never said a word in high school, that flew in on his private jet. The party animal that is now a successful tax attorney. Etc! I loved seeing what we had all morphed into. What a hoot!

  25. I love the message at the end of this post. It's something that in my best moments I feel in my heart, and at my worsts I tell myself over and over again, emptily. Thank you for your candor.

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