Mixed Emotions

If you are here because you like reading about travel, skip this post. Come back in 18 days when I will give you an early morning tour of Lisbon, Portugal…if all goes well. This post is personal. It is kind of about travel because we went someplace so I could experience it but it isn’t about travel, it’s about me.

Two weeks ago tonight was my 50th high school reunion. I graduated from Palm Springs High School in Palm Springs, California in June 1971 and with COVID we finally got around to holding the reunion. Also, because of COVID this reunion included the class before ours (1970) as they had missed theirs.

As you may have seen from earlier posts, I was really looking forward to going to the reunion and to spending a few days with my brother and his family as well. BTW: That part of the trip was great. We had our usually awesome time with Steve and Jamie.

But the reunion itself wasn’t that great. Or maybe I should say that the reunion (the event) was just fine. It was just not great for me. For a lot of reasons. Some external and some internal. I have been trying to decide if I wanted to write about it for the last two weeks. Each day when I walk I kind of plan out my posts in my head before I write them. Never had one perplex me more about how I feel about it.

Things I had almost no control over

One of the big things we (Kathleen and I) were really looking forward to was seeing my best friend from high school, Randy. She and I have known each other since elementary school and we became very close in high school. We were never boyfriend/girlfriend, just really close friends. I spent some of the best times of my life with her. We lost track of each other after our third year of college but we reconnected when I met Kathleen (my first wife did not like her) and we have been rebuilding our friendship ever since. Kathleen and I have visited Randy in Arizona and she and I communicate via e-mail, text, Instagram and FaceBook on a pretty regular basis.

Kathleen was only going to come to the reunion if Randy was going to be there because she wanted to at least know one person. I didn’t blame her. I doubt I would have really wanted to go if I didn’t know anyone. Especially being married to Mr. Extrovert who would be running around talking to everyone else.

On the day before the reunion we had planned to get together with Randy for lunch but early that day she texted that due to a medical problem she was headed home to AZ and would miss the reunion. She was crushed. We had been talking about doing this for more than a year. I was sad (more than sad) because when I look back on it now, I really only had only two or three people who I knew were going to be there that I really wanted to see. And she was definitely one of them.

When Randy let me know she wasn’t going to be there, I let Kathleen off the hook and told her to go have dinner with Steve and Jamie. They would drop me off at the reunion site and go get dinner and pick me up on their way back to our vacation rental, two hours later. I figured that with Randy not there, I could easily see the two or three other people I wanted to see, say hi to others and be ready to go. The reunion did include a BBQ dinner and a single drink ticket for everyone attending but food was not why I was still going.

When the family dropped me off I have to say I was not impressed with the site. I fully get that this is what the group could afford and still keep it affordable for everyone. It was held at a stables that is within a couple of miles of downtown. The place has a clubhouse kind of building and patio behind it where there were tables set up. Inside the building a lot of people were congregating and there was a bar, a place to take pics and some old high school photo stuff including a display honoring those in our class that had passed away. Guess what comes with a stables…horses (they were a pretty long way away) but that means they also bring…horseflies…and they were pretty close. So was that wonderful aroma that cowboys know well.

Now let’s get to something I was really uncomfortable with. I know I am partly to blame for my being uncomfortable and to be honest, I can’t believe I did what I did. When I got out of my brother’s truck, I had a mask on but when I walked up to the registration table that was in front of the building, I took it off because not a single person had one on. Yes, we were outside, but people were close together. Yes, I am vaccinated (three shots) but still, for the safety of myself and my family, I should have kept mine on. But I bowed to the unspoken peer pressure and shoved mine in my pocket.

After checking in, I immediately ran into someone who I had been friends with more in elementary school than in high school but our mothers had been VERY close. It was great seeing her and that was nice. But it was pretty much downhill from there until about 90 minutes later.

I headed into the building so I could get out onto the large porch area in the back. As I went in, I noticed a big sign stating, “By order of the City of Palm Springs, only vaccinated guests may be inside these premises and all must be masked.” Of course not a soul was…wearing a mask. Not sure about the vaccination status but of course after I got through the building and wound up outside in the back the first group of people I ran into was four men (I didn’t know any of them so I am assuming they were from the class of 1970) who were talking about “all those sheep who are vaccinated.” Needless to say I avoided those folks like the plague (no joke intended). Most of the rest of the time I was there was spent outside and trying as hard as I could to socially distance.

Internal stuff that I should have controlled

Looking back on the experience of that night, I have come to some sad truths about myself. The first being I realized I was neither liked nor disliked in high school. Most of my classmates, other than my closest friends, didn’t care one way or the other about me. Sadly, it took me going back to this reunion to realize that. I blame my job of 39 years in the yearbook industry for this. Writing, speaking, teaching yearbook advisers and staffers how to preserve memories for all those years has made me romanticize how “great” high school was. But to be honest, it really wasn’t. I, like most people, had a few close friends (some of those were in the class of 1972 and not there) and everyone else was just an acquaintance. Someone who had passed through my life for a few years.

So this led me to ask myself, why had I wanted to go if I really was only hoping to run into two or three people who I really wanted to see? Here’s my second hard truth: vanity. When I was in high school, I was a pudgy guy (to be real–I was fat). And I was a little nerdy. I was president of the Forensics Club for god’s sake. I wasn’t in sports. I was on the student council and I did help out with the yearbook (but wasn’t on the staff) because Randy was the editor but I wasn’t one of the “in”crowd.

Today I weigh about 15 lbs less than I did when I graduated. I am in so much better shape today than then and I work hard to get that way. And unlike about 65% of the guys in my class, I still have hair on my head as well as on my face, in my nose and my ears😜. To be honest, I look a lot better than I did in high school and I really wanted to have someone who knew me then be impressed. Talk about a bad reason to go and setting myself up for failure. Yes, I guess I am that shallow. The entire night, one person (just one) mentioned how “young” I looked. That’s it. And how sad am I that I feel this way.

Once I got past my motives for going, my other reason this was not the best reunion ever was my interaction with people. In all but three instances seeing someone I had known in high school went like this:

Me: “Hi (their name here)! I’m Jim Bellomo Remember me?”

So all I am saying is that it would have been nice if someone had asked me anything about what I had been up to in the last 50 years. I mean after just being there for two hours I can tell you about a guy who was a flight attendant for TWA and he quit when they were bought by AA and that he hates AA but his wife still works there. Or another person who owned a pool cleaning business for years and was now working in construction (I can even tell you about his truck and the people he works with). And someone who was a graphic artist and worked at Disney Animation in the 80s and 90s. Or someone who worked for a transportation company in a far off state. I know so much about so many others but was most impressed about how long they could talk about themselves without ever taking a second to ask a question.

It wasn’t all bad

Enough boo-hooing, I do want to make it very clear that the reunion wasn’t all bad. I did catch up with an old friend from elementary school who has had quite the life and wanted to know about mine as well. And someone who I had known in high school but we really hadn’t been friends then who I now hear from all the time on Facebook. She is a traveler like me and we have been corresponding about travel, so it was good to see her in the flesh, so to speak (that’s her on the left at the top of this post).

I was also thrilled to see one of the other three people I had been really close to in high school–Teresa (that’s her on the right at the top of this post). She and I were always great friends (she was my Senior Prom date–as a friend) but had completely lost track of each other after high school. The last time I had seen her was on the morning my son was born in 1979 when the doctor kicked me out of the delivery room (after my wife had been in labor for more than 14 hours and he wanted her to try and rest) and I went to find something to eat. Teresa was working in Palm Springs then as a letter carrier and happened to walk in the door of the restaurant to deliver her mail as I was standing there. 

She got to the reunion late so we didn’t have as much time as we would have liked before the family was picking me up and she too was crushed that Randy hadn’t made it but it was great catching up with her. In communicating with Randy and Teresa post reunion, I realized that we three  should have just had our own reunion. Those were really the only people coming who I had really wanted to see. Not that I didn’t enjoy seeing some of the other people who were there, but deep in my heart, I wish I had skipped it. 

When you have expectations, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. —Ryan Reynolds

2 thoughts on “Mixed Emotions

  1. Mike Preisman

    I hated my 40th reunion. I was in your boat as far as popularity. The people I knew I didn’t care for and a few I didn’t remember that well were a pleasure to talk to. So don’t feel bad, I don’t many people that really enjoy them, especially if they have moved away.

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