Shai lives up in the northern part of Virginia and the game plan was for me to come up to her place on Friday night, spend the night, and then we would take off for New Jersey the following morning. Shai is married to a great guy named Dave and has FOUR GIRLS ages 8 and under. Lord help me, there is a special place in heaven for her, preferably with a lot of wine and sushi.
We hadn't really had any time alone together in about ten years, so the second I hit the door Friday night we pretty much only stopped talking long enough to eat and sleep. It was NUTS. Seriously, my throat was scratchy for three days after we got back, probably more so from the
talking than from the vomiting.
Oops, spoiler alert!
On Saturday, we rolled into our hometown around 2 PM. We grew up in a bucolic little town in northwest New Jersey called Long Valley. It is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth.
New Jersey???? Beautiful???? You probably think I'm insane. And in some ways, I am, but I am totally being truthful here. It's in the mountains, it's very New-Englandy with all of the old homes and small towns. A lot of that had fallen away from my memories since it had been a good 20 years since I'd been back there, and as we drove along the winding roads lined with trees, I was totally overwhelmed by exactly how beautiful it truly is there.
We had a pretty idyllic childhood. It was such a time of innocence there - we remembered riding our bikes up and down the mountain, exploring through the woods and gallivanting down to the country store to get gum and ice cream. Things that kids really can't do anymore. Things changed when we were sophomores, and one of the underclassmen in our school was raped and murdered. Everything changed once Rachel was gone.
We went to the Brew Pub for lunch (we have an effing BREW PUB? Egads!) and then spent a few hours driving around all of our old haunts and remembering all the good and bad times. Really, there were way more good than bad times there. We were lucky, so lucky.
Eventually, it was time for us to head to the hotel to get all gussied up for the reunion. And when we got there, it took me a bit to kind of warm up and feel comfortable seeing faces that I hadn't seen in decades. Old boyfriends (total: 3), my arch-nemesis from childhood, good friends that I hadn't talked to or seen in years. I did have one former classmate dogging me all night to hook up with him, but fortunately (or unfortunately at the expense of losing dinner), I ended up with food poisoning and ended up hugging the toilet bowl around 1 AM. Seriously, the guy was so persistent that I finally snapped at him, "Dude, unless you're planning on holding my hair while I puke, this is NOT going to happen." He did actually email me a few days later and apologized for being so forward, thanks to The Devil Alcohol. Whatever, dude. I didn't even have the balls to tell Joey about it, since he wasn't exactly happy about me going to the reunion without him and knowing The Old Boyfriends were going to be there...
So a few cool and yet odd things happened:
1. I reconnected at last with my friend Diana - we have been friends since 3rd grade and due to a lot of personal BS she went through right after college, we lost touch. It has been fantastic to get back in touch and we have been corresponding regularly since December. I also got to meet her most awesome husband Jason.
2. I also saw my friend Tina - her dad was my dad's doctor (got that?) and she and I have been friends since probably 4th grade. She is absolutely one of the smartest effing people on the planet.
3. My arch-nemesis since childhood came up and threw her arms around me, screeching how happy she was to see me and how she remembered that she, Diana and I were BEST FRIENDS. And Diana, who has zero filter on what escapes out of her mouth, snapped right back, "That's not how I remember it!" Priceless, truly priceless.
4. The popular kids were still cliquey. And that was okay. My friends looked way better than they did, snap!
The next day, we dragged our hungover asses out for some good ol' diner food and then headed down to Hackettstown to our former church. We had intentions of slipping in to check out the sanctuary since we spent hundreds of hours there at the church, and when we got in there we ran into our former minister and choir director...who REMEMBERED US INSTANTLY. It was freaky. And they had just finished a huge, gorgeous renovation of the sanctuary that was so amazing that it made me cry. I felt like I had just walked right back into my home.
And...speaking of home...that was the WORST part of the trip. Seeing my childhood home.
My parents bought the house in 1968 for about $25,000. A modest brick rancher with a front porch and a full basement. We had a huge old oak tree in the front yard, a big back yard bordered by a nature preserve. It wasn't anything glamorous, but it was ours. It was my home until I was 17 years old.
So we drove by the house to take a picture. I don't think we have a single good picture of the house, and we had heard from a former neighbor that the dentist that purchased the house had put an "addition" on it.
Addition my ass! Look at this!
It bears no resemblance at all to our former house. And the damn oak tree is gone. I double-checked the address to make sure it was the right house and then burst into tears.
It was almost like having my childhood taken away from me. Yeah, it's just a house...but it was my HOME.
Anyhow, we arrived back home late on Sunday night, hoarse and hung over and exhausted. It was a ton of fun but the driving and riding was really a lot to cram into less than three days.
I was really glad that I went, mostly from the standpoint that sometimes you have to revisit your past to appreciate what you have in your life right now. My friends and I huddled together over a glass of pinot and marveled at what a charmed life we had back in those days. And all of us have gone on to have pretty good lives for the most part. I would like to think that things will just continue getting better and better.
And the best part - realizing that even though times change, and people change, your friends will probably still be the same. And you will talk until you are hoarse and laugh until your sides hurt.
Me, Tina and Diana
Me and Shai