Just today, this very afternoon, I was thinking about how lucky I am. It was one of those perfect moments that you hope flashes when, as they say, your whole life passes before your eyes when you die: I had taken a break from work and was sitting in the sun in my backyard, the summer sounds of birds and a faraway lawn-mower joined in, along with the weirdly remorseful dirge of the neighborhood ice cream truck’s version of La Cucaracha. Other than my broken foot and “that last ten pounds,” I am healthy. I have a husband I love. I have a ridiculously adorable son who is one part lovable, one part genius and one part my greatest and most honorable challenge. I love my home. I *have* a home. I use coupons when I shop because that’s how I was raised, and because I think it’s fun…not because I, necessarily, have to. Life is pretty damn good.
Another privilege of my life is that I can hop on Facebook whenever I need a break from work and check in with friends near and far, friends who, without the internet, I would probably have never seen or heard from again. Tonight I saw a post informing me that a friend I knew in high school had passed away. His obituary did not hint at how it happened, and I have not seen this guy for 20 years. Still, seeing his face in The Denver Post obituary section was a giant wake up call. Here’s what it woke me up to:
A) TWENTY years!? I guess the fact that I just received an invite to my 20th high school reunion should have clued me in to the fact that it’s been TWENTY years since I graduated high school. Moral of the story: time is weird and memories are slave less to actual history than they are to the way our mind, guided by our emotions, interprets them. For instance, one of the reasons I am not planning on going to my 20th high school reunion (in addition to the prohibitively outlandish cost of tickets — $138 to be exact…that wasn’t a typo) is that, when faced with the names of kids with whom I actually attended school, I usually have to look them up to see who they are. The group of friends I had outside of school, such as the one who passed away, I can still picture as though I just yesterday had coffee and played chess with them at Paris on the Platte. Judging from the pictures on the Paris on the Platte website, our little place under the viaduct looks a lot fancier than it did back in the day (more power to them!). The viaduct which, by the way, I’m pretty sure is no longer there. I don’t think Denver looks very much the same now as it did in 1992. Are the alleyways my friend and I used to hold hands and run down in the middle of the night to scare ourselves as we left Rock Island still scary? Wait, is Rock Island still there? I know they tore my high school down last year. I figure if I want to pay $138 to get depressed I could just stay here in Tacoma and go see the Blue Oyster Cult at the Emerald Queen Casino next month.
B) Memories are a gift. The guy who posted the passing of our mutual friend credited him with introducing him to The Stone Roses, a staple of my high school years. I immediately went on a mind-trip tour of 1990-1992 via YouTube (the equivalent to a time machine) and listened to several tracks of the Roses’ self-named album which I played on repeat, interrupted intermittently only by Kate Bush, Jellyfish and Jane’s Addiction, in my 1984 Dodge Colt during my entire Junior and Senior years. During trips to the DAV thrift store on Colfax, trips to Perkins on Wadsworth to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes and do homework all night, drives to the hogbacks in the foothills west of Denver, a fateful trip to the Sand Dunes during which my boyfriend crashed my car into a deer (one of the rare times I “got in trouble” with my dad), trips to Winchell’s when we didn’t want to attend the spirit assemblies, trips between my house and my mom’s new house when my parents got divorced, trips to my piano lessons, where my piano teacher was half teacher/half counselor. She was the only one who noticed that I, at the the age of 17, considered coffee, cigarettes and Grape Nuts a balanced diet. Listening to that Stone Roses album, after twenty years, gave me the same feeling of indignant invincibility that I had back then. I’ve heard (but don’t quote me on this) that memory is in the frontal lobe of the brain, right next to sound and smell…I’m pretty sure if I had smelled a clove cigarette and Pert Plus (the shampoo my boyfriend’s mom bought him) I would probably actually, literally, have been transported back in time to 1991.
C) What matters most is now. I feel blessed to have such powerful memories. Not just powerful, but empowering. They made me who I am, for better or for worse. But what matters most is that those memories were stepping stones to get me here. The best part of this process is looking back and keeping in mind that, when things looked like complete and utter chaos, there was always a way out, and that way out brought me to where I am now…to the aforementioned husband whom I love. To the son who surprises me every day with his crazy brain (and who I realize, every day, will soon be creating his own memories, in his own version of ‘for better or worse,’ of high school). I’m older now and have finally gotten to the point where I can have faith in that thing my dad has always said to me “It’ll all work out, honey.” I need to give my mom credit for that one too, as she’s taxed with telling me that everyday in my adult life. Divorced or not, and whether they knew it or not, they were a pretty good team in making me feel, at best, that I could do anything, at worst, what’s the worst that can happen?
Time machines, still, are pretty fun, so I leave you with a few images of my high school years, and a soundtrack to boot. I don’t know how many people “loved” high school. If I were to make a list on paper of what was going on in my life at that time, you’d probably look at it and think I should have been on suicide watch. Instead, I felt invincible. If I ever forget that feeling, I listen to Kate Bush, and now that my friend of so long ago has passed away and I was reminded, The Stone Roses. Not to speak for the dead, but I assume he is feeling pretty invincible now, too.
The Stone Roses – I Wanna Be Adored
Kate Bush – Army Dreamers
Jellyfish – The King is Half Undressed
Jane’s Addiction – Mountain Song
Kate Bush – This Woman’s Work
The Stone Roses - I am the Resurrection
Jesus Jones - Right Here, Right Now (our class song, actually, surprisingly)