“Why am I here”? That was not a philosophical question I found myself asking, soon after my wife’s high school reunion began, but rather it was a genuine inquiry as to what I had freely gotten myself into. More distressing was knowing this evening was merely the first of two nights worth of reunion festivities. Friday’s gathering was open to all Newton alumni, who were holding their individual class reunions on Saturday, so the racetrack’s lobby was packed with an assortment of graduates (young and old). We were at the Iowa Speedway: the exact venue I publicly opposed, over a decade earlier, when I was a proud citizen of the small town.
I think the racetrack has been somewhat successful, but I’m sure the city, of approximately 15,000 residents, is still trying to recoup its losses from the generous incentives given by the town’s city council. The facility is certainly impressive, but a person could lose their voice, attempting to carry on a conversation, because it’s so deafening inside the huge lobby. I discovered that firsthand since I almost instantly developed a “tickle” in my throat after arriving at the site. It grew into an annoying cough before the evening was through. I’m a far cry from a social butterfly, so I’m positive my raw vocal chords were the result of my yelling just to be heard.
That first night I stuck to my wife, like a conjoined twin, because she’s a class reunion veteran, and this was only my second appearance in 30 years. I definitely found out (as if I didn’t already know) what it’s like to be the third wheel. Some of the male spouses weren’t in attendance while others I’m sure were content conversing with anyone other than myself. Thus, I was forced to give my best performance: acting as though I was interested in all of the “girl talk” encompassing me. Admittedly, I did have a few meaningful conversations, with people from my past, but I was more than a little relieved when the missus finally granted us permission to leave.
Surprisingly, Saturday’s soiree was considerably different. The evening was not only tolerable, but dare I say, it was sort of enjoyable. My wife’s actual class reunion was held outdoors at one of the shelter houses at Maytag Park. The familiar stomping ground, named after the nationally renowned appliance maker’s founder, holds many special memories for my family and I. When I was an adolescent I nearly drowned in the park’s public swimming pool (okay, maybe that memory isn’t so special). However, my wife and I did teach our only child how to ride a bicycle there, and all three of us received our high school diplomas, up on the cement stage, at the Maytag Bowl. Many times my family and I had picnics at the park, and we took full advantage of the wooded area’s Frisbee golf course and tennis courts.
Speaking of which I now have another “special” memory involving those tennis courts. During a rare lull, in the reunion conversations, I noticed some youngsters playing doubles on the courts nearby, so I moseyed on over to watch for a couple of minutes. The foursome unexpectedly stopped playing, just as I was arriving, and were congregating, only a few feet away from me, on the other side of the fence. I felt like a deer caught in headlights, after realizing I was now way too close not to be noticed, yet I was also aware it would surely seem strange to them if I suddenly retreated. Therefore, I quickly opted to harmlessly ask, “Are you guys just starting or finishing up?”
They all looked up at me but did not say a word. The teens just sat there in silence. They said nothing. Absolutely nothing. After what seemed like an eternity, and recognizing their fear, I uttered, “Oh, no…stranger danger,” in a feeble attempt to lighten the mood. Still nothing. I probably should’ve bolted at that point, but I sensed the need to explain why I was at the park, and I wanted to convince them I was not what they were thinking I was…a pervert. Luckily, I think the youngsters bought my story. I did find out the foursome had halted play in order to hydrate and to pick new teams. I wished them well and scurried back to the party.
Some people at the reunion looked pretty much the same, thirty years later, while others were fairly unrecognizable. This one guy swore he knew who I was, but I was clueless as to his identity. He decided he would give me some hints until I remembered who he was. He correctly named the street I used to live on and informed me where he used to reside. The “stranger” told a few ancient stories, I supposedly was a character in, and then he began naming some of “our” friends from the old neighborhood. He eventually did say the name of an old pal I indeed used to hang with; however, he remained a complete mystery to me until out of his own frustration he revealed his name. I did recognize the name, but that was all.
This same guy then began prepping or preparing (I’m not sure which) the rest of us guys for the impending arrival of another classmate’s wife. He had seen her earlier in the day, was obviously smitten with her, and for some reason wanted to assure the rest of us males of her incomparable beauty. The gentleman boldly proclaimed, “She blows everyone here away.” I tenaciously countered with, “Not my wife.” One of the guy’s classmates, standing next to me, then responded in the same manner. I think my “friend” from the past realized his faux pas, or else feared a spousal uprising, since he promptly began recanting his previous statement.
Later that night I encountered the “ravishing” woman. I played high school baseball with her husband. He was a grade younger than I, so he took over the centerfield duties after I graduated. I always liked the guy, and his wife was certainly nice enough, even insisting that she needed a hug from me immediately after we met (Oh, no…stranger danger), but as I suspected she was no match for my wife. By the end of the second evening I was no longer asking myself, “Why am I here?” I knew exactly why I’d been attending the weekend festivities of my wife’s high school class reunion. There’s no where on earth I’d rather be than by my lovely wife’s side.