The Edge of Seventeen

The Edge of

The timing of life is kind of funny. Well, actually, the timing of life is often cruel but that is not for a blog. That is to be buried in the pages of what you call a novel and what I call free therapy. Regardless, timing likes to play little tricks to keep us on our toes. This past month my oldest child started high school. I found myself roaming the halls during an orientation and seeing all the familiar things that never seem to change in a school setting, making it hard to remember that it has been years and years since the halls were mine.

As the timing goes, this milestone in my life happened to fall during the same year as my high school reunion. High school reunions aren’t what they used to be, I’m sure. However, I have nothing to compare it to. Social media was born in the early years of my adulthood, and the warning of the generations before me of never seeing any of these people ever again became obsolete. I see them online all the time, and in person occasionally. And thanks to the beast that is Facebook, I’ve managed to keep a good number of my friends over these last couple of decades. Some of them it really would be better if they fell into the oblivion, but with the bad comes the good.

Before the reunion, there was much chatter among my high school girlfriends over what we were all wearing. We didn’t care if we went formal, or casual, but we wanted to do it together. We talked about who was dragging their significant others and what we were doing with our kids. We would often get side tracked by a comment and start making fun of each other, or the idea of going to a high school reunion to start with. Dude, I saw you last week for lunch. Do I really need to dress up, get a babysitter, and pay $100 to spend three hours with you?

Why, yes. Yes you do.

It wound up being a tremendously fun event. One of my former classmates closed down their restaurant for the evening and we had great food, excellent company and the worst of the worst and the best of the best 90s music playing all night. As one does, I made my way round the room and said hello to as many people as I thought would remember me. And even to some who I thought might not. It’s fun to watch a person feverishly look for your name tag as they are smiling and hugging you saying “Oh my gosh! How are you?”  You….uh…..what is your name?

It’s okay, I don’t expect you to remember me.

What was fun was to see where all of these people landed. Some were no surprise at all. Our Valedictorian is basically running Google, my guess was actually NASA but I was close enough. The guy who was running the Christian club is now a Pastor. The class clowns are successful salesmen. And there were a few surprises too. I got a few “No shits” when I mentioned I write romance novels. A classmate that shall remain nameless beat me out for the most interesting job, as he now sells legalized marijuana. A guy I thought would be dead by 30 for sure turned out to be steadily employed, happily married to a gorgeous woman, and a doting father of a brand new baby.

There were people I went back as far as you can go with, to the elementary school playground. One of my friends mentioned- It’s in my DNA to know you, I don’t know how to not love you.

Isn’t that sweet?

This particular girl I haven’t actually seen or connected with (somehow) all these years and we just picked right up as if we’d last seen each other a week ago at school.

I walked into that restaurant knowing I was different than I had been. I’d like to think I am a bit more organized in my writing now. I wait 30 seconds before I open my mouth to speak so I can think about (and hopefully stop) the stupidity that might fall out. I have a good marriage, and two (mostly) good kids. I volunteer, I participate, I drive a minivan. It’s really not that my life can be tied up in a cute little suburbia-inspired bow, it’s more that I’ve learned how to walk through life. I used to run toward my fanciful dreams, and I’d often trip and make a mess. Now I walk at my own pace. I used to say and do only what I thought was wanted from me. Now I listen to the voices in my mind. They’re pretty amazing sometimes. My one organized, and always beautifully put together friend laughed with me as I wound up winning the award for married the longest, and said “I’m so glad you won that, makes it all kind of worth it.”

Yeah, I was the girl who was in love with being in love. And I drove my friends crazy. But now I have an award, so it makes it okay.

I love her.

I’m older, I’m wiser. While I spent my teens saying no to wine and yes to drama, I’m happy to spend these later years saying the complete opposite.

I was among company directors, multiple Master’s holders, doctors, lawyers, social workers, marketing executives, activists…the list could go on.

But for one night, we were all a bunch of seventeen-year-old goofballs again and it was grand.

I realized this is the feeling that I have when I am with these people. I have a habit of dating my friends. Life gets so busy, it’s impossible to gather everyone round like this more than once every five or ten or twenty years. So for the past year I have been making the effort to just shoot one or two people a text or message and asking- Lunch this week?  I try to have a date on my calendar every couple of weeks, with somebody special. To grab two really good hours with an old friend on some random Tuesday afternoon is so much more rewarding than seeing them once for ten minutes that one time a year we can get everyone together.

My high school friends are among my favorite lunch dates. They know me on a level of such bullshit that it is impossible to try to put on airs. It’s freeing in a sense.  I can walk through life, and dress myself up in these fancy writer clothes, or the exact right suburban mom uniform, or the occasional fancy dress to play the role of my husband’s wife at a work function, but with this group of particular people, it all gets checked at the door.

They don’t see a husband and wife with a good life, two good kids, who are often participating in some town event in the small town they’ve lived in forever and love.

They see a ditzy, quirky, hyper teenage girl who doodled the same boys name in the margins of ever paper she ever wrote and the guy who managed to calm her down long enough so she could actually enjoy the future she daydreamed about.

You’re still you. Silly, amazing you.

As a writer, I get to explore all sorts of personalities. Just yesterday I was a male twenty eight year old wounded war vet for about three hours. I’m a southern bar tender, or a wise beyond her years bookstore owner. Perhaps a nine year old boy who loves his mama, soccer, and turtles. I have so much fun exploring the world through their eyes.

But what comes easiest to me are younger voices. At this past Baltimore Book Festival, I shared a panel with other New Adult and Young Adult writers and we talked about how easy it is to slip back in time.

How easy it is to be that age.

I thought about a book I might write about two people who passed notes to each other, and by then end of the afternoon I found myself sitting in a chair thinking about this boy I used to know. We passed notes to each other.

I have no idea whatever happened to him. I hope he’s married, living on a farm in Georgia, with a beautiful wife and fat, happy babies.

It seems like just yesterday.

I think I realized then, that though we age and we learn, there’s just this little something that never changes.

I feel it when I slip into the character of a love-struck teenage girl.

I am surrounded by it when I get together with the girlfriends who see me for who I am at my core.

It makes me smile when though years and years and years have past, a memory can be shared between two people with little more than a look across a crowded room, a song on the radio, or the casual mention of something not at all related but in that moment you both find yourselves thinking of the same funny little something.

I walk though the halls with my child and I hope that he is happy. He is so intimidated by this new giant school, and eager to get his turn at the most exciting stages of life. I wonder what of his now he will carry with him. What parts, what people, what feelings. What will be the funny little somethings that make him smile. I want them to be good. I want them to be worth it. I want to grab him and shake him and tell him to really, really pay attention.

Timing is such a funny thing. A minute of the day is just sixty seconds. But if it’s the right sixty seconds, it can last a lifetime.

The funny little somethings that make us all forever seventeen.

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