It all began quite innocently. And then yours truly, not knowing the intricacies of Facebook, made a social faux pas. But a faux pas that morphed into fabulosity. Let me explain.
While planning for our February on the Central Coast of California with Hannah, I read online about the Thomas Fire which burned nearly 300,000 acres in the mountains above Santa Barbara and Carpinteria and leveled entire neighborhoods in Ventura. With these wildfires raging mere miles from our soon-to-be VRBO condo in Carpinteria, I notice that Gerry Moss, a childhood friend from the Radburn section of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, posted that his sister’s Ventura house burned to the ground.
Though we ran in different circles, Gerry and I grew up in idyllic Radburn in the 1950s and 1960s – cul de sac living where ever street ended at a park. We were part of the same rec program as well as attended Radburn School together at the far end of the park.
So, when I heard about the devastation of his sister’s house, I thought, what if Hannah and I take his sister and hubby out for breakfast when we are in California? A modest gesture to be sure, but modest gestures are usually worth making. I didn’t know them at all, but I knew Gerry and so I reached out to him.
This is where my naivete about Facebook comes in. I didn’t have Gerry’s email, so I contacted him directly through the Fair Lawn High School Class of 1966 Facebook page. Little did I know that that meant I would be contacting everyone in the FLHS group. Unaware of Facebook messaging, I appreciated Gerry gently letting me know of that option and suggesting that we use it to communicate privately. My bad, but then my good.
As it turns out, Gerry and his wife Irene were coming to support his sister Ruthann and her hubby Jerry during five days in February when we would be nearby in Carpinteria. He suggested we get together. Then it gets even better.
Smiling on me, the reunion gods brought my breakfast invitation intentions to classmate Roz, who lives in the area, and Linda from Seattle, who would be traveling to the area with her hubby Rich. Roz offered her place as a mini-reunion venue and contacted others to join us. Fortunately, my high school tennis teammate, Paul, arranged to come.
With five members of the Fair Lawn High School Class of 1996 set to meet, Hannah and I drive south on The 101 through Ventura, Oxnard, and Camarillo to Roz and her husband Jeff’s place in Westlake Village. As I drive, I wonder if any of these other four felt like they were a part of the in crowd? As is well-documented, I was three or four orbits out from the in crowd and spiraling into some black hole of the galaxy.
Having last seen this group six plus years ago at our 45th class reunion, I felt the outsider then, since I hadn’t seen any of these classmates, well, for 45 years. But it was Roz and Linda who came to my rescue and supported me in feeling like I belonged. I was the principal’s son, had stuck to my small group of friends during my high school years, and was an introvert, not rocking in the confidence department. Linda and Roz, probably didn’t know at the time how much their kindness meant to me that night; you see what I mean about the power of small gestures?
Having had such a good time at the 45th Reunion, I was primed for our 50th. And then I wasn’t. Though I had purchased the $125 ticket, I bailed at the last minute. My high school buddies weren’t going. My closest friend had died, others were in parts unknown, estranged from anything Fair Lawn, and others didn’t survive the hallucinogens of the Sixties. What would it matter if I went? Who would care? I stayed home.
Today provided a little chance for redemption as I stepped out of my comfort zone. Greeting me at her door, Roz says, You look like your father. Whoa, no one has ever said that to me. She adds, He had a rounder face, but you look like your father. Not five minutes later, unaware what Roz had said, Gerry says the same thing. Really? I had no idea.
As to the in-crowd question? None of us felt we were. If you weren’t a female cheerleader, student council or class president, or a big time male athlete, you had a hard time breaking into the in-crowd. Amazingly, there were no high school team sports for girls in the mid-1960s in north Jersey). Membership in the in crowd seems insignificant now.
Talking with my tennis teammate Paul, I relived what was one of the best parts of my high school days – the varsity tennis team. The camaradery with teammates gave me the feeling of belonging. In addition, my small group of friends were the best; but my high school classes were often lectures with little student-to-student interaction. With my dad as principal, I felt constrained, feeling like always had to be on my best behavior. Obedience became my default persona; it took years to shed that facade.
Getting together with my classmates today, reminds me now how I felt then that I was always competing. I competed for grades (No Einstein, I graduated 61 out of 596 from high school); I competed on the social scene for high school girlfriends and come up empty; I competed on the tennis team to be #1, but almost always felt nervous on match days. I didn’t have as much fun as I could have. Years later, as a senior at Arizona State, thanks to my guys, I began to loosen the shackles of other people’s expectations.
I could have used a little Lao-Tzu back in the day.
Be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete.
– Lao Tzu
Today, I am rarely competing with anyone. I hike with Hannah, where we don’t compete; we both finish at the same time! I am recreational pickleball player and avoid tournament play.
Today, I am loving being with these classmates and their spouses on a day that will be one of my favorites in California. Mostly at peace, I am just so damn happy for their successes and their good fortune in love and life.
Thank you, Roz, Gerry, Paul, and Linda. Til we meet again.
And by the way, I am ready for our 55th class reunion. Really! I am not kidding.