One of the main reasons that I went to Iowa this Summer at the time that I did was because the Belmond High School Class of 1975 was having a reunion dinner for the 40th anniversary of the high school getting rid of all of our dumb behinds all at once, an entire class full of mooks and monkey-heads and minions. I desperately wanted to see them again… for possibly the last time in our lives. It has been 40 years. Seven of us are gone (more than 10% of a small, rural Iowegian high school class). And now I want to tell stories about them and relentlessly make fun of them… though I will change the names to protect the innocent… and the ones I like… which is all of them.
We had the hootenanny at the Belmond Country-Club and Golf Course (and no, we were not eating golf balls… the most favorite of all Belmond restaurants had been destroyed by a tornado not long ago, and is now re-opened at the Country-Club grounds). I was really hoping to see my best friend there, Dr. Bilbo Bonaduce… the mook in the lobster shirt in high school that always got my jokes in Mr. Salcomb’s English classes, but never laughed… because he always needed to top them. (That goof-ball was willing to say out loud in front of everyone the kind of jokes I could only whisper to him behind my hand… needless to say, I only basked in the laughs second-hand.) Unfortunately, he was not there. He suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and may not even still be among the living. It has been a decade since I last saw or heard from him. Gee, this part of the story is not nearly as funny and uplifting as I had planned. But, then, time and fortune are not universally kind.
I did get to see the boy I fell in love with in Junior High. Now, that is not exactly what it sounds like. Neither of us were ever gay, and both have children by the one and only wives that we each married. I loved him because he was magical. He relied on my big brain to help him in Math and History, and I relied on him as we played together, side by side, in football, basketball, and track. As a teammate, he always made me better at what I was doing. I tackled harder and shot the ball more accurately and ran faster because he was always there encouraging me. I was actually the better athlete of the two of us (in my unbiased opinion), but he lettered in three sports when I did not letter in any. He dated the girl I had the hugest crush of my life upon… for a while… and got all the glory. But I shared in it because he was my friend and the “shiny” rubbed off on me. He grew up to be the only farmer in our class who is still actually farming. Still living the life we once knew. God, Roger, I never envied you more, and I love you still.
I spent the most time talking to three people I had not talked to much in 40 years… Rachel McMichaels was one of the organizers of the dinner. She was the brainiest girl in our class and the Valedictorian in high school. The scuttlebutt was that if I courted and married Rachel, all our children would have frizzy white hair and mustaches like Albert Einstein. She was as warm and caring as ever. She asked all about my family and told me one or two things about hers. There was never a flicker of romance between us in high school… probably because of all the teasing… but I do realize what a good thing was always there to be missed out on entirely.
Daniel Mastermill was there too. We sat beside each other in the front row of the infamous Miss Rubelmacher’s seventh-grade Science class. The terrifying Miss R sat us there together in her seating chart because of size. Daniel, in seventh grade, was even shorter and scrawnier than I was. At the reunion, he was telling me the story (which I had never heard before) of his family’s buried treasure. It seems that his parents buried a treasure on their family farm, and told the children that it was there, but never gave them a treasure map, or told them what was in the treasure. The old folks apparently died without telling where it was buried, and the children spent weeks digging up everything they dared to dig up looking for it before the farm was sold. The treasure is apparently still there.
And I sat next to Reggie Simmery all during the meal. Everybody talks to Reggie. He was the class clown. We were sitting across the table from Angela Oberkfell, the classmate who was also the Junior High School Principal’s daughter, and listened to a recounting of several times Reg was subjected to paddlings, stern lectures, and even a couple of suspensions. Reggie could never resist the temptation to say or do the most ridiculous, stupid, and pointless things his little peanut-butter-powered brain could think of. And he always laughed about everything, even when Angela’s dad whacked him on the behind with a board of education.
The reunion was a disappointment because I didn’t see all the people I wanted to see. Even the girl I had the greatest crush of my life upon was not there. (Clever of her to avoid me.) But I saw people I needed to see, and felt the things I needed to feel, about a time and place so long ago now, and my heart is full… re-filled to the brim.