An Open Love Letter…

I’m not going to lie.

I had a lot of reservations about going to my high-school reunion, so much so that I nearly talked myself out of going. I was ready to turn around and drive back down Hwy 400.  It didn’t help matters that I got lost on my way out there but that’s another story altogether.

When I finally pulled up to the main building, I saw a group of people milling around, drinking and chatting. One of them looked over at me and it was like time stood still. He came over to the car, clipboard in hand and smiled at me.

“Hello, Jake*” I returned his smile with my heart clubbing a mile a minute.

I could tell he wasn’t too sure about my name so I helped him out a little.  Once he checked my name off the list, Jake grinned and said “Welcome.”

That simple word choked me up.

The next thing I knew, Sarah* came out of the pavilion threw her arms around me. I hugged her and cried. Then Thalia* came out after her and the waterworks were in full force. A kiss on the lips and then I found myself facing Brett*.  There was another heartfelt kiss and then I was led inside to greet more of my old classmates. There were screams, I did some jumping up and down and I was engulfed in more hugs. More kisses followed and the tears wouldn’t stop.

Even as I write this, I’m crying.

I forgot what it was like to have people in my life who didn’t judge me, who didn’t exclude me and make me feel like I didn’t belong. I had been so horribly worried about what people would think of me that I totally let it consume my every waking thought. I was making myself sick for no reason.

This group of kids I had gone to school with so many years ago were special to me. They made my high school years bearable because they were SINCERE. Sure, you had your cliques but not with this group. I felt the love back then and it is still there today.

Oh, the memories: The Spoons, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, The English Beat…all of that stuff! It was a time I cherished, that I brought out my little keepsake box whenever I heard a familiar song or saw something that reminded me of my youth.

It was through them that I was able to view things differently instead of what was expected of me. I didn’t have to worry about my “blackness”, that I was selling out because I preferred to embrace diversity instead of running away from it. It was all about being free and loving who you were and being happy.

Too many years have passed by.

I thought I was going to find the wonderful spirit of these people crushed by life’s relentless curve-ball but instead I found a peaceful solace of love and acceptance.

Just like I did way back when I was 14 years old.

This past weekend was just amazing.

Yes, I got so drunk on the Friday night that it took me until Saturday afternoon to recover. I remember walking arm in arm with Dale* to the campfire, falling over the pile of wood in the darkness and laughing my ass off. I remember blubbering to my crush, Lee*, how I had it hard for him back then and how he’d hurt my feelings. He couldn’t apologize enough but he was such a prince to me that night that I found myself having a little crush on him all over again.

I missed the yoga class the next morning, nearly threw up the Orange Poppy seed pancakes at breakfast and had to go back to my bed. When I resurfaced, I managed to keep down the wonderful lunch that was being served and resolved to drink water for the rest of the weekend.

The 80s dance that night was so much fun. I totally forgot to bring something to wear but a lot of the others were dressed in the styles of days gone by. Some of the guys dressed up like DEVO, complete with red buckets on their heads, and red bio-hazard tape over their white jumpsuits. We danced to songs by The B52s, Michael Jackson, Billy Idol, Spandau Ballet and a lot of other great artists. Well, that is until the DJ had too much to drink and started to replay the same stuff over and over again.

The next day brought old teachers, a touching tribute to a classmate who was no longer here with us (my heart broke for those who knew him best) and music performed by my friends who, at first, struggled through the band practice but was able to take us back down memory lane once again.

I zeroed in on one of my favourite teachers, Ms. Williams*. I didn’t get within ten feet of her when she shouted out my name and threw her arms around me. We were crying and telling each other how much we loved each other. I didn’t even hesitate with saying that.

My mother gave me the love of reading. Ms. Williams gave me the love of classic literature, of reading good, solid novels and expounded on the power of the written word. Between choking on my tears, I told her how she gave me such grief for reading ahead of the class (To Kill a Mockingbird, like seriously? I couldn’t wait for the rest of my classmates.)

Ms. Williams held my face in her hands and told me she remembered sitting on the floor in the hallway with me when I was about 15 or 16. I asked her why. She told me that I had been upset by the mark she’d given me for an essay I had written. She had sat down next to me to explain why she had done so.

“You remember that?” I asked, incredulous.

This wonderful woman looked me right in the eye and said.
“I remember everything about you.”

Hell, I can’t remember half the crap I do on a daily basis but in that moment, this beautiful woman made me feel like I was the most important person in the world. I struggled to tell her how much of an impact she had on me but all I could do was hug her even harder.

Our old principal was there as well. Over lunch, I caught him giving me the beady eye a couple of times. I was hoping he didn’t recognize me. When he gave his speech, thanking the organizers for inviting him and the other teachers he mentioned how he recognized some of the students by passing them in the hall. The other students, he remembered them clearly from their numerous trips to his office. He turned his head ever so slightly in my direction and I couldn’t stop laughing.

And then the end came.

When it was time to go, I didn’t linger with my goodbyes. I just couldn’t.

This past weekend was a revelation to me. My emotions are so raw right now I can hardly breathe. Every time I think about my feelings, the way everything fell into place, the way we all fit and just gelled together…its overwhelming. I just can’t explain it.

We started “friending” each other on Facebook.

Lee wrote on the event wall:

I am still trying to figure out what the f’k just happened this weekend. Does anyone know??
When I finally wrap my head around it, I’ll let you know. Whatever it was, it feels good. REALLY good.

This is part of another message:
I think that once all the scrapes, bruises, aches, pains, fatigue and bug bites heal up what I will be left with is a wonderful warm feeling and the knowledge that I am truly blessed to have spent such a stellar weekend with such wonderful friends.

Another wrote:

Meeting all the friends from years gone by … this weekend was about the happiest I’ve been since I woke up in the hospital. I feel that this was the weekend I reclaimed my life.

This is part of another message:
If I tried to say more I think I would well up with tears too many times because of the joy I felt, and will always remember.

There were so many other similar messages, other expressions of wonder, magic, happiness and love. I wasn’t the only one who experienced these emotions.

I wrote this on my wall, in my first attempt to convey my feelings:

I learned something during the past couple of days. The heart knows love and I felt it a thousand times over. I’m still in tears. Thank you for a wonderful, wonderful weekend.

And I still can’t thank them enough.

When I was walking back to my car with Ashley*, I said how I felt so horrible for assuming people would be judging me. Instead I had judged them when I should have known better. She turned to me and said “Yes, you should have.” She said this without a hint of rancor. I would’ve bristled up like a hedgehog if I thought she was giving me attitude but no. There was none of that and when she smiled at me, I started to cry again because I knew she was right.

Her quiet statement alone was an eye-opener and another lesson to take back to my daily life.
I will NOT make that  mistake regarding my friends ever again. NEVER, EVER, EVER.

So now that I’ve totally blown my hard ass-kicking chick cover, I’m going to end it here.

I love all of you and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Hell, who am I kidding? I can’t even begin to thank you for the gift you’ve given me.

Until next time,
Peace, blessings and love…

**Names changed because…well, just because…**