Pleased to meet me

C.K. McClatchy High School alum considers attending her 40-year reunion

Alison Rood is a local freelance writer

My 40-year high-school reunion. The number is daunting. Has it really been that long since I sat in C.K. McClatchy High School classrooms and studied the popular kids as intently as I studied academics?

I know I earned good grades (my mother kept my report cards), but I don’t have the foggiest recollection of working for that A in U.S. government class. Yet, I do recall the surge of joy I felt when I overheard a cheerleader say her favorite TV show was The Monkees. That was my favorite show, too! At last, I had forged a bond with a member of the elite, even if she didn’t know it.

Like a lot of kids, I was an outsider during most of my high-school career; a foreigner who had washed up on a distant shore and couldn’t speak the native language. Sure, I had a few friends, joined a club or two, and in my final year was even offered the position of student-body historian. But as I diligently collected newspaper clippings that described the achievements of my classmates, artfully pasting them into a scrapbook, I was still observing the natives without actually being part of the tribe.

Now, in middle age, endowed with more self-worth than is possible for a 17-year-old, it’s interesting to entertain the idea of attending a party with the class of 1969.

The bottom line: I was intimidated by the “in-crowd” once upon a time, but how intimidating could they be now that they were old enough to be grandparents?

Several years ago, during a family gathering in the home of my in-laws, I discovered just how level that playing field had become. I found myself staring at my sister-in-law’s aunt, a woman I had never met, but who looked familiar. There was something about her face that I recognized.

It dawned on me that she might be one of the cheerleaders I had idolized from afar back in high school. I asked my sister-in-law if her Aunt Jennifer had had the maiden name of Vaughn (not her real names). “Yeah, I think so,” she said.

It turned out it was her, a girl I had envied for her hair, her smile, her boyfriend, her status, her everything. Forty years ago she was the perfect package. Did I shy away, as if I was 17 years old? No damn way! I plopped right down beside her and told her I was from the class of ’69, and we had a good laugh about how smitten I’d been with her back in the day.

It was easy. She had gained weight, like I had, and she looked … ordinary. Middle age does that to people—even the popular kids.

I’m still debating about the reunion, but it might be fun. I can imagine the in-crowd and me beaming as we slurp cocktails and bask in the comfort of our middle-aged selves.

And then they’ll say, “It’s so nice to reconnect with you. … By the way, who did you say you were?”