So last night I had reason to get out my old high school yearbooks. This isn’t something I do all that often: living here, in my hometown, just down the road from my high school, every day is an exercise in nostalgia, so it really isn’t necessary. Plus I write about high school, so it’s not like I’m not back in that world fairly often, if only in a fictional sense.
But anyway, I had them out. (Bianca was over and wanted to look someone up: like most of my friends, she long ago lost hers, or never had one in the first place, whereas I always bought a yearbook because I am Just That Sort Of Person.) I was sitting on the couch flipping through my senior one, cringing at my picture (as I always do, because I had big eighties hair) when I realized that hardly anybody signed my yearbook that year. I mean, no one that I was actually friends with. In fact, of the maybe fifteen inscriptions, only one of them was from someone I actually hung out with. All the rest were people I had classes with, people who I couldn’t pick out of a lineup now if I gun was to my head (and let’s just hope that never happens). Who was this Sharmaine from Spanish class? And why was Brooke Somebody telling me we’d party this summer? Who were these people?
I turned to the very back of the book, where there was this Senior Class Picture, all four-hundred or so of us on the bleachers. I remember that day so well, because none of my friends wanted to be in it with me—again, That Sort of Person—so I went by myself. I remember sitting there, with all these other people who were with all their friends, and looking over the fence to where my friends were standing around talking, not the least bit interested in being saved for all eternity in a group shot with our classmates. Why I was there, I have no idea. I think maybe I just thought I might regret it later, or something. (This, sadly, the the motivation for a lot of stupid things I do in my life. But I digress.)
The picture of our class in the yearbook is kind of blurry, and it’s always really weird to me that I have to spend so much time trying to find my face among all the others, like I don’t even recognize myself without having to search for awhile. After a few minutes though, there I was: sitting between two groups of people, wearing my sunglasses, not smiling. I don’t look happy, but then I probably wasn’t. I didn’t like high school much. That’s probably why I’m still writing about it.
It’s weird to me, though, that for so long all I wanted to do was forget all about those years. And now I make a living making myself go back there, if only for material. It’s not so awful, from this distance: like flipping through yearbooks, you have the cushion of a few years, and what seemed like such a big deal is, in retrospect, pretty trivial compared to what’s come since.
(I still hate my hair in that picture, though.)
My husband went to my high school, and he never wants to look at the yearbooks. He hates even talking about it, is all about forward motion, what’s coming, not what’s been. I think that’s why he’s such a good match for me. (He didn’t have a yearbook either. In fact, he didn’t even take a senior picture, that’s how little he cared about being remembered.)
I’m not sure what Sort of Person I am now. I mean, I love to look back, if only because those facts are more or less set, and the world feels pretty uncertain these days. But I think pulling out yearbooks is best done only once in a while. I don’t like scanning that big blurry photo, unsure of my place in all those people. That was what high school was all about, after all.
Well, that and big hair. That I don’t miss. Not even a little bit…..