My Thirtieth High School Reunion

Well, I was barely there in 1969 as I only completed half of ninth grade but the Park High Class of '73 in Livingston, Montana, still invites me anyway, even though my picture is not even in any of the annuals (if I hadn't started kindergarten early and skipped fourth grade, I would have been Class of '75). They're curious to see how I turned out, I suspect. When I got there they had forgotten to put on the list of the deceased my best friend, Colleen "Buttons" Greear, who died 21 years ago so I made sure she was on the list priest prayed for. They had us all outside on the golf course to take a group photo, fifty women and thirty men all lined up to remember each other from 30 years ago. The priest told us we could say something as he read the list of names but nobody did until he read Buttons last and I had to say, "Miss you, sweetie!" Then I had a hard time smiling since I was crying so hard when they took our picture.

After checking into the Murray Hotel I decided to go for a bike ride down to the public pool. I was probably the oldest person there and the water was icy cold but it was very cool and refreshing after the long hot drive from Helena to Livingston. I used to bike there from our place out on the Five Acre Tract nearly every day in the summer. I pedaled past the big barn of a house where our family first lived -- remembered finding three crisp five dollar bills in a copy of *The Great Gatsby* on the shelf of books around the fireplace there when we moved in, oh, and the Five Foot Shelf of Harvard Classics. I slowed and admired St Andrew's Episcopal Church, where I went nearly every Sunday where the drone of Father Faas lulled me to sleep on cold winter mornings.

Then off to the Country Club and it was like going to those parties there with my parents except everyone looked vaguely familiar but it took looking at their photos, Xeroxed with their names typed under them and pinned to their chests to see who they were. Next reunion we will all need MUCH bigger print on those, somebody said. "I need it NOW," I said. It was like when you're floating down the river trying to figure out which fish are which, I'm telling you, because most of the faces I remembered were buried deep under 30 years of living.

The Nelson twins were there and the Rowe twins, all cheerleaders, of course, with handsome distinguished looking husbands. Art Wiltgen was there, with his own electrical business up in Wilsall, where he now installs high end security in the big homes being built over in Bozeman. The girls who were nice to me in high school, Karen West, Marty Clemons, Marit Waldum, and Jonee, uh, can't remember HER name, all grew up to be beautiful women and they were gracious to me still. Dan Volberding was there who has written me on email, looking huge, maybe 350 pounds, and I heard him tell Jody Long, who still works for her mother at the Vogue -- which is where we bought our prom dresses -- and who still cleans the Catholic cemetery where Buttons is buried, how he had a crush on her in high school and that he still had a crush on her. I didn't stick around long enough to find out how that progressed...

The "coolest" -- and in those days that was the expression -- kids in our class were Don Huppert and Rosalie Hallam, both of whom now live in New York City. So both of them mentioned in different conversations that they had driven by the park together earlier in the day and how gross it would be to go to the public pool (maybe they saw me there?) and I told them how wonderful it was and thought to myself they had really missed the coolest experience of the day -- literally and figuratively -- and maybe I had not missed out on anything in the last thirty years after all because I have been blessed to be able to come back to Montana to live, to canoe the Smith in a blizzard and have my house within a mile of the ski area and be able to float York's Islands this coming Sunday.

I left early to avoid the DJ, mostly because I couldn't remember until later any of the songs from that year: though Dawn and Tony Orlando's Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree fits right in with the world 30 years later, and Elton John's Crocodile Rock was already trying to evoke a past we hadn't come from. Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On was more in my spirit for those days, mostly because when we cruised the one block drag in Livingston we loved to listen to KOMA, OKLAHOMA CITY, FIFTY THOUSAND WATTS OF LIVE POWER BRINGING YOU THAT MOTOWN SOUND.

We drove down to the cemetery and cleaned off Buttons' grave at twilight and I put some flowers I had found in an alley on her grave.

Then we went downtown to the street dance. Great cowboy music in one bar with some folks who looked like Sons of the Pioneers and a really loud headbanger band at another bar. In the street was a country and western band playing real loud. But at the Mint where I could always figure to find my father at the poker table in the back, I discovered they had remodeled and that there had actually been a door directly from his accountant's office into the bar itself. Three piece band there playing oldies was just right for dancing and the band came up and told me how much my dancing made them want to play more, which made me leave and go back to the hotel to make love, then I changed into my bellydancing outfit and went back but that resulted in clearing off the dance floor. Luckily, none of my classmates were around to see me have so much fun.


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