I walked into a Wrigleyville bar this past weekend with the strains of Nirvana, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, and tracks from “The Chronic” blasting from the speakers. That could only mean one thing: the Homewood-Flossmoor High School Class of 1996 Reunion!
In many ways, HF was and still is a typical upper-middle to upper class high school in the Chicago suburbs, save for the fact that it is located south of 57th Street, which means that most people from the Chicago area that are not from the South Side would have an easier time finding Krygyzstan on a map than the town that I grew up in (Glenwood). A group of vandals during my freshman year of high school had an interesting way of summing up our student population with some graffiti plastered across the front of our school. Instead of the typical “HF SUCKS” comment or the like, they spray painted an admittedly brilliant knock on our school sign: “GO AWAY YUPPIE LARVAE”. Something told me that this wasn’t your average gang tag.
Personally, I had a great time in high school, so I was looking forward to the evening. (For other observations on high school reunions, check out TK and Cindy.) That being said, it’s definitely a period of time that I would never want to go back to (in contrast to, say, my inebriated college years). Here are my random thoughts from the night where I reconnected with all of my fellow Yuppie Larvae:
1) The More Things Change, The More Things Stay The Same – The largest surprise of the evening was that there was an utter lack of surprises. I was expecting to run into a large number of people who had gone through some type of metamorphasis, whether positive or negative. There had to be a bunch of dorks that were on the lowest rung of the high school food chain that had scored millions in an IPO, right? Hadn’t some of the cheerleaders become fat and ugly?
Instead, in almost all instances, people didn’t look any different and had essentially the same personalities. The popular kids still appeared to be as polished as ever while the nerdier ones of the class really didn’t change that much. It was as if though I was time warped back to a 1996 prom after-party. There was one glaring exception to this, though, where a guy who was a short roly poly-type in high school grew another foot taller, lost all of his excess weight, and is now married to someone that could pass for a runway model. That guy, without question, wins the Comeback Player of the Decade Award.
2) Reunion or Mixer? – At least in the Chicago area, it’s pretty common to have a high school reunion at a bar in the city. This is perfectly fine on paper (I will always take full advantage of any open bar and the tavern hopping scene in downtown Homewood, while better than most suburbs, isn’t exactly enthralling), but for me, our reunion ended up feeling as though I went out to a random bar and just happened to run into a bunch of my high school classmates in the back. I’m not saying that we ought to go back to the days of having a class reunion in the old high school gym with a bowl of punch, yet I feel there ought to be some middle ground here. I just don’t know what that would be.
3) You Don’t Have To Go Home But You Can’t Stay Here – Speaking of the reunion’s location, it was perfectly fitting that a quintessential South Side high school ended up having a class reunion only steps away from the North Side symbol of Wrigley Field. That’s because I would have a better chance of running into a high school classmate in New York City or San Francisco than I would in Glenwood, Homewood, Flossmoor, or the other towns that HF drew students from. Granted, the vast majority of people still live in the Chicagoland area (with a plurality living specifically in either Lincoln Park or Lakeview in the city), but it was amazing to find out that only 2 people that I talked to out of well over 100 people at the reunion still lived within the HF boundary lines. I figured that there was an exodus of some sort, yet I didn’t realize its extent.
4) Please Fill In Occupation, Marital Status, Children – The occupations of my old classmates ran the gamut with a heavy tilt toward the professional side that you’d expect from a suburban high school – tons of lawyers (I’m guilty there), financiers, doctors, and sales people along with a smattering of graduate students. There were a few interesting jobs that stuck out, though, including a director of marketing at a casino (on scale of 1 to 10 as to the likelihood of that type of job leading me to a John Belushi-style early death, I would put it at a 997) and the speechwriter for the CEO of one of the largest and famous companies in the world.
There were a whole lot more married people than I was expecting, if only because it seems as though most of the people that I do keep in touch with from the past are determined to continue to carry on the torch of bachelorhood for the next decade. I was mentally prepared in concept to find out that some of my old classmates had procreated, but it was still jarring to imagine some of these people having to care for the life of another human being.
(It must be noted here that my wife, bless her heart, was a complete trooper throughout the evening since she knew absolutely no one. She absolutely rules!)
In the end, it was a lot of fun to catch up with all of those people that I hadn’t seen in ten years. We all had a drink (or ten) while rehashing and laughing about the drama and the emotional peaks and valleys that we went through in high school that was all for nothing yet, at the same time, shaped us for the rest of our lives. The Yuppie Larvae have finally grown up.
(Image from Wikipedia)