I recently went to my 25 year high school reunion and was asked to make a speech. So I did, but then I thought, why not make it a blog post? So here it is, slightly edited, and with less profanity:
First off, Jenn wanted me to remind you that the reason for the name tags is not because anyone looks that different after 25 years, it’s because all of our memories have gotten worse.
Wow. 25 Years since High School. WTF?! Seriously. I can tell a lot of us are thinking the same thing as we think about High School and where we are now: How did things go so horribly wrong?! This job is miserable, we had too many kids, and I have a mortgage I will never pay off as long as I’m alive.
But being here tonight, with everyone, makes us all step into Peabody and Sherman’s Way Back Machine. Back way before texting, Twitter, 24 hour Cable News (boy, has that helped), and when they still made Twinkies.
Picture it now. Wow, what were we wearing? Anyway, I remember. I remember playing Dungeons and Dragons. With pencil and paper and a few dice. I remember watching The Breakfast Club, and Wargames, and listening to the theme song from Ghostbusters, thinking “I wish the radio would play it more”.
I remember a teacher nicknamed Cocaine Dave, who threatened to sue another teacher for making his nickname a clue in the crossword puzzle of the school newspaper, getting drunk on the weekends and working at K-mart. I THINK those two things were unrelated. I remember getting dumped at my prom– my own fault for bringing an underclassman. I remember when Huey Lewis was almost relevant. I remember a classmate who would only shave half of his beard, and one who had to go to court for a senior prank gone horribly awry.
Sure, we had video games back then. But they were made up of blocks, and they were impossible. There were no “save points”. There were dragons that looked like ducks, and a Pac Man game that looked nothing like the one in the arcade. God Bless the Atari 2600.
But at the heart of my high school memories, I remember there was something special about our class, and there still is. I’m sure everyone says that about their own high school class, but let’s face it, most of them are wrong. Our class, however, was different. It WAS special. Why? Because it was inclusive. Sure, there were these weird clicks, but no one really paid that much attention to them. Our Jocks were some of the nicest guys you could meet. Our Burnouts would always be there to help you if you asked them. Our Metalheads got good grades. And our Nerds, we were the handymen. If you wanted your VCR to work or if wanted free HBO, you were nice to the nerds. And our Cheerleaders, well, they were Cheerleaders. What are you gonna do?
I remember wondering if Pop Rocks and soda could really kill you, I remember finding the autoshop teacher’s stash in his car when he sent us out to get parts. I remember making a crossbow in shop class, I remember that guidance counselors do literally nothing. I remember an English teacher, Mr. Rotondo, who was more like a father to us than a teacher. And I remember when our Class Mascot announced he was gay, surprising no one.
But most importantly, I remember what good friends I had. And the memories we made. As we move forward with our lives, have families of our own, a part of us still wants to find out whose parents are out of town this weekend and all meet up there. We just need a runner to make a trip to the beer distributor. That part of us will never go away, and it shouldn’t.
The old saying goes that if I knew then what I know now, blah blah. Well, if I knew then what I know now, I still would have screwed up, because I am very poor at making decisions. Knowledge doesn’t change that one basic flaw. And, there are no save points.
I remember my friend Mike said to me once that some of the greatest times of your life are in High School. He said it to me while we were egging cars, but I knew what he meant. But seriously, what store sells a dozen eggs to two teenagers at 10 o’clock at night? You may as well be giving cigarettes to toddlers.
We all look back on the span of our lives and think about what we could have done differently. Some to make more money, and some to avoid extradition. But when it comes to high school, and the time we all spent together, the good and the bad blend together, and it becomes mostly just good. Because we were new, we were learning, and we remember.
East High School gave us great teachers and mentors, but it also gave us a home. A place where we could feel comfortable, a place that did its best to point us in the right direction on our journey to adulthood. And I think if the school itself could talk, it would say, “Henderson can suck it” and then it would say, “I’m proud of you”.
I remember all of it. I bring my high school experiences with me every day. I hope you do too.