Time Machine Tune-Up

On September 23, I wrote about plans to attend my 45th high school reunion. I had doubts I’d made the right decision, but my husband and I went this past weekend. I’ll be stopping by Sonic tonight for an order of crow with a side of fries.

Bryan and I decided to play tourist in San Antonio, my home until 1980. We checked into the Country Inn, a very nice mo/ho/tel a stone’s throw from the site of Saturday’s soiree. Then we went for dinner at Adelante, a surprisingly Austinesque, healthy(er) Tex-Mex restaurant near my old high school. Their lard-free policy helps lighten the cuisine, and the menu offers vegetarian and vegan delights, as well as real-deal-just-lighter favorites.  After vegetarian enchiladas and tamales, we went back to the hotel feeling self-righteous and light on our feet.

I grew up in San Antonio, but for once I was grateful for the GPS’s whiney instructions. It’s been a long time since I could navigate the city on autopilot. We headed downtown, bound for El Mercado to shop Mexico without going there. It took some effort to figure out where to park, but after a few false starts we found a place. Enjoying one of  San Antonio’s annual Five Days of Perfect Weather, we walked the couple of blocks to the market. We shopped for treasures unfindable just 90 miles to the north and ate lunch at Mi Tierra. Undoing all the benefits of the previous night’s supper, we pigged out on the delicious-but-deadly version of Tex-Mex.

Fast forward a few hours, after a little rest and a lot of primping, and it was time for my reunion. Checking in and getting a nametag with my full name, Janet Wheeler Kilgore, complete with a black-and-white senior photo of a girl with pretty eyes and an improbable bubble of very dark hair, I was unsure of myself, making mental notes of all the exits. Taking a deep breath, I stepped into a lovely room full of old people. Not that I expected to see the place full of teenagers, but when time-travelling into your past, shouldn’t people at least look familiar? Obviously, my time machine needs a tune-up. The nametags helped tremendously, but even with glasses, by the time I got close enough to read them, I felt obligated to say something, like, “Nice tie!” or “You really need to get that heart murmur looked at!”

People seemed genuinely glad to see me, and I really enjoyed seeing them and catching up. I’d thought of most of them over the years, wondering what became of them. Somewhere between our teens and dotage, I guess we’ve all learned a thing or two. I spent the evening saying, “Hi, I’m Janet Wheeler,” a sentence I hadn’t uttered since my first marriage and name-change in 1971. Questions from our younger days (“Are you going to Prom?” “Is the punch spiked?”) were replaced by, “Do you have grandchildren?” and, of course, “Do you know where the restrooms are?”

I stopped in my tracks at the list of 45 classmates who have passed on. That was definitely the epiphany of the evening for me. My husband was terrific, mingling with ease in a room full of total strangers. He said he enjoyed hearing stories about a time in my life he hadn’t shared, and recalling names and faces was all on me, another plus.

So, I was wrong about my reunion. My memories of high school now have a different quality—lighter, softer, sweeter. I’m so glad I went, and assuming the Mayans were wrong, I’m even looking forward to the next one—the 50th. Groan.

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