Thursday, August 14, 2014

30 years? What the???

This is it, my old stomping grounds! Who is that funny guy there?
Here I am, well into the second leg of our return trip from my home town of Santa Barbara CA. It had been 15 years since I was able to spend any good amount of time visiting, reminiscing, and making new memories in that beautiful coastal city. There was that time, last December, when the Schulze clan stopped for half a day and a motel room to visit my sister and rest our travel weary bones. While we did get to enjoy the local zoo with my big sis, that was about it. For your information you know your brood is big when it is cheaper to buy a Zoo Membership for the fam than to pay entry fees for each individual person. Just sayin'. That pass did come in handy for this long weekend trip as the Hubster and I were able  to experience the animals without our minions. Yes, the two of us were on a well needed mini vacation to rest, recharge and ready ourselves for what ever God has in store for us. 

Senior photo. Can you say "Braces?"
Actually we probably wouldn't have made the trip if I hadn't paid for the nonrefundable hotel rate. I felt a tad bit guilty leaving just as the first week of school was wrapping up. The fact that Allie's 11th birthday was the actual day of the reunion didn't relieve my mom stress any either. Thankfully, Eric and Emily are more than capable of taking care of their younger siblings. Emily is one incredible big sister too. She made it her goal for Allie's big day to be something special. So I pushed the guilt aside and, with the much needed support of the Hubster, made the trip to relive those awkward days of high school.

The experience, though, really began inside of my closet. The outfit choices seemed so limited as I stared at the rainbow that is my wardrobe. To relieve my mind I began to recite this mantra "We are ALL almost 50. We are ALL almost 50." I tried to stalk some old classmate Facebook pages to reassure myself that mine was not the only post-birth, nonathletic, bread loving body that would be in attendance. I asked what to expect the attire of the main event would be. Then I came to the realization, there are only two of us going, I can pack what ever I want. So I did. I made sure the outfits would be ones my comfort level would be high in while camouflaging a few less flattering traits I carry around 24/7. Around midnight my head was hitting my pillow awaiting the 4AM alarm to sound for our 8 to 9 hour drive.

Photo booth fun with the Hubster!
We drove and my anxieties arose periodically. Those feelings of meeting new people whom knew of me at a time that was not my best. A couple of my core group would be attending but I was the only one going for all three events. A new message was playing over and over in my mind. "They aren't the same as they were in school." "Thirty years tends to mature people." "Don't put my own insecurities on others." I needed to assume the best. Unfortunately, my mind was listing toward preparing for the worst.

Walking in to the almost historic restaurant / bar I had done my best to appear like I belonged there.  Looking around, I did not recognize a single soul. The stools were filled with many patrons but how was I to know which ones had graduated from SMHS in 1984? Honestly, the thought of leaving was forefront in my mind. Then we spotted them, four people looking at others in the same manner I had been. Sneaking a peak at their faces, I had NO IDEA who in the world they were. Then, I heard it, ".....class of '84?" I found some courage and spoke to them.

We introduced ourselves. It was the men I had walked the halls of my Alma mater with for years. After we revealed our identities the veil began to lift. Though not people I hung out with, I certainly had classes with each. Their wives were sweet and talk of an eight hour drive soon flowed into family and career choices. A few more classmates showed up and then more. Before I knew it the poor wait staff was losing dinner tables to those there for drinks and appetizers. I  have to admit I mistook a fellow Royal for someone else. Commenting on his amazing trumpet skills.  Oops, right first name, wrong last. Oh well chalk that one up to experience. I did love the way he laughed, it warmed my heart.

Second from the left, that's me!
A star football player came up and introductions were had. I don't think he ever spoke two words to me 30 some years ago but this was pleasant. Then he mentioned seeing my family on Facebook. "How many kids do you have?" was soon asked. Talk about a conversation starter. The mention of parenting six children seems to take people aback. Following up with foster care, adoptions and Down syndrome, their jaws almost hit the floor. All of a sudden the man I would have never thought of carrying on a conversation with was all ears. He mentions overseeing the local CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) program as well as his appreciation of what foster families need to experience to be successful. I was blessed by his attentiveness. I do believe he used the word "halo" a couple of times also.

That night a few of my classmates recognized me, I saw a few appear to say "Who is she?" A few of them approached me and I approached a few of them. I was even able to use what little ASL I have gleaned from my years with "Signing Time." From locals to those from out of state, we all began to reintroduce ourselves. Soon, our eight and a half hour drive on four hours of sleep began to take it's toll. We finished our sodas and said goodbye until tomorrow. First event down and it wasn't that painful.

Not so suave but he sure makes me laugh!
The next night was the big event. The key words for this evening were "Taco Bar" that screams jeans to me. I put the dress and supportive undergarments to the side and pulled out the "tall" jeans to go with my heels. As we were getting ready the Hubster and I replayed our morning. We were driving down the main drag, contemplating the morning meal location when the phone rang. Answering it over the rental car's sound system the voice of a dear friend resonated from the speakers. He had driven in with his wife and child from Vegas. Remembering him more as the lovable comedian than the suave, international spy he is named after, I was eager to visit. He told us where they were waiting to have breakfast and the old Cindy appeared. "We should eat with you guys!" came out of my mouth instead of the polite, "Hey, would you mind if we joined you?" Soon the five of us  were sitting around the table the laughter slowly but surely emerging from our group. Then the memories and the "have you heard froms" began. The plan was formed to all go to the zoo, disguising his daughter as a Schulze for the day so we could take a little more advantage of our zoo membership. The old friendship became more and more comfortable. Animals, memories and jokes filled our conversation. We moved to another location and enjoyed our loved ones' experiencing what we had lived many times throughout our early lives. This is what I was looking forward to, uniting seasons of my life.

My friends put up with me!
Anxiety was only lingering when it came to arriving at the evening's venue. The Hubster, loaded down with my sophomore, junior and senior yearbooks. (class of "84 never had the "freshman"experience as we came in as sophomores and brought an entire freshman class with us) Our hostess for the weekend was amazing and so sweet. She helped me feel more and more comfortable every time I saw her. I have to admit, her encouraging others to read this blog brought on some confidence I hadn't packed at home.  Another old friend appeared like a cozy blanket. With sodas in hand, the three of us appropriated  an outside picnic table shrouded in scarlet red. Life's joys and sorrows were shared as we spent a short amount of time together. Unfortunately, he had to leave early due to health reasons. That left the Hubster and I to venture out. The yearbooks helped and boy were they popular. My "other half" found someone to discuss cars and racing with so I took that as a cue to head out on my own. Tonight, we all had much needed name tags fastened onto our chests. (It was entertaining to watch people stare at the Hubster's and try to remember him) The newest phrases "I remember you", "You haven't changed." (ha ha) and "I would have totally recognized you!" were music to my ears. The fears had dissipated and memories abounded. Watching future stories unfold made me laugh. The best part for me was getting to share our amazing family experience and encourage a couple of new friends in their amazing family. We headed back to the hotel after the Hubster witnessed a lady swinging around a pole resulting in a classmate's beverage laying on the dance floor void of it's contents. By that time the eagerness to join in on the next day's BBQ had set in.

The next morning consisted of a walk on a beach I spent much of my childhood on, breakfast with old friends, exploring the art vendors along a popular walk, and driving through neighborhoods I hadn't seen in decades. Our sweet weekend ended with a casual BBQ, more ASL and more friends.

Making more memories!
That brings me back to this moment. As I am typing away, hoping I don't lose everything due to my lack of Internet, tears stream down my cheeks. I spent most of the drive reflecting on what God was doing in my heart. The emotions were confusing me. Why now? I had enjoyed high school for the most part. Why would seeing these people cause such intense feelings? Sure there were those who didn't even look my way. Sure, one or two cut the conversation short finding various reasons to walk away. I realize now, it had nothing to do with who I am and everything to do with who they are. No, it was the much needed affirmation from those who inhabited a very vulnerable time in my life that brought this reaction. Those who saw something in this mom-of-six that interested them. Knowing it isn't the college degree, the labels on my clothes, the places we go, nor the things we own that make my life valuable to others. It is what I do with what my Lord has given me. He has given me children. I am a mom. A mom who doesn't fit into those size fives anymore. A mom who feels anguish over missing a birthday. A mom who needed this weekend to reflect on what is my life and the miracles that result.

Maybe at our 35th I will have another opportunity to explore the lives of those who were more distant. Until then, hopes of flourishing friendships, various visitors, and promising posts are beginning to fill my heart.