I checked my lipstick in the rearview mirror before leaving the Jeep. In a few minutes I’d meet up with 1983 Eagles grads at a local pub. It was our second meeting in two months to celebrate our 38th year since we were handed our diplomas on a hot June summer day.
As I ordered a drink I looked around at the smiling faces that had joined us this time. There were kisses and hugs but I noticed the big smiles the most. Everyone is just so beautiful and still looks the same as when we met in elementary school, middle school, or eventually in high school.
This time we ordered food and while eating chicken wings, turkey clubs, sliders, or just another beer… I started to listen to the different stories flying around the table. My reaction to some of the sad tales about people I knew then was “oh my God I didn’t realize… I didn’t know.” Then just like turning on a faucet, the memories started to flow. Suddenly I remember being in Anthony‘s basement at a “slow dance “ party with soda and the really good pretzels that my mom never bought at the supermarket. All of a sudden I could remember what I was wearing at Wendy’s Sweet 16 party or being completely ignored at Tina’s Sweet 16 party by a boy I thought really liked me. The memories were really specific and I could almost feel myself back in the designer jeans we were talking about.
Talks throughout the night went deeper than I expected them to. We talked about our first loves, experiences, anxieties, feelings about others, feelings about ourselves. The word wow left my lips a few times as I thought again… I never knew. No, I didn’t know. We were young. Things were simpler. Most of the time they were downright fun and brought belly laughs that I haven’t had since those days.
At one point I turned to one of my long lost friends and said “know what Te? We are damn lucky… We didn’t choose each other. Life worked out and we were chosen for each other.“
Later on I thought to myself… Or maybe I did say it out loud… Maybe that relationship didn’t work out for a reason. The life we have now was shaped by a series of events that were not coincidences. We were placed together. In Bethpage. In our town. In our little pockets of the community that we called home. If we had been in any other town…we wouldn’t have met. Yeah..this was all planned. I smiled because not having this group with me would have changed everything.
We went rollerskating and ice-skating on Friday nights. We hung out in the state park. We lived at the beach… Most of us on the South Shore while others lifeguarded and hung out on the North Shore. We walked a marathon each weekend from one end of town to the other just to have ice cream and walk home again. We rode our bikes to town for a slice of pizza and stayed there talking until the last sip of soda was gone. We took the bus to the mall to buy lipgloss. On Saturdays we all went to football games and parties where I happened to meet the most incredible guy who would turn out to bring two amazing humans into this world with me. After all this… After all we did in 12 years we said goodbye. We soared into the world and landed in new communities and circles.
Now, all of these years later we meet again. I’m so grateful to have these people in my world. We may not have been super close but all of you were meant to be part of my life. I consider these gifts I never asked for. You all helped to shape me and were gifts I never knew.
Looking forward to seeing where our paths take us next. Just remember how we were raised… Once an Eagle always an Eagle. Bethpage forever.