Friday, July 12, 2013

Reunion and retreat. Thanks JD Peeps!

The best thing about my junior high school years is that I am here in Bath, Maine for a week.

Twenty-five years ago, I met a snarky, sweet and pretty girl in my ninth grade art class in Orange Park, Florida.

Not only did we have an art class in common, we shared an English class. We joked about substitute teachers whom we referred to as feminine hygiene products, we passed notes when our peers were discussing 'Alas, Babylon' and we rocked out to the Hoyle Dempsey morning show on the WAPE-FM.

We shared so many laughs in our freshman year. We were not typical freshmen because we were on top of the heap. The junior high school pecking order led directly up to the ninth graders who knew not very much of the coming sophomore slump.

Then, she was gone. I sorely missed my art buddy whose sense of humor made me openly wonder if we were long-long siblings. Just as she opened my eyes and ears to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, she was gone.

This was the heavy price that I paid for being a Navy brat. I knew that whatever bonds that I formed would be torn asunder by Uncle Sam's dictates that my friends' parents would be stationed to any random duty station if to point out that my socialization and friendships took a back seat to our national security.

Tenth grade for me was a letdown without her. She must have made a mark in our town because rumors came and went around our Sunshine State suburb that she was dead. Whatever the truth was about this mysterious friend, I thought fondly of the nearly 180 days that we sat in tiny desks with the kind of dialogue that now permeates the typical teen sitcom that populates American television.

Although she was gone, she was the template for all of my future friendships. When I joined my church youth group, when I started an underground newspaper, when I eventually went away to college. The ones who drew me the closest were the ones who seemed to step right out of Spy Magazine.

Or the Village Voice

Then along came MySpace.

Seeing that I halfway feared that I would have to conjure up a seance to reunite with her, I decided to search her through social networking.

It almost did not happen because I was reluctant to join MySpace. After all, what were the odds of finding people with whom I wanted to connect? Once I got on, I began making connections with folks who were unseen in years.

On a whim, I looked her up. I found her. I sent her a message.

As far from Maine as she was, she and I crossed the span of decades to reconnect. I could hardly wait to make the trip of the East coast to see her again. Thanks to Amtrak's USA Rail Pass, I embarked on a journey to rediscover myself.

Much like I thought that she had left this mortal coil, there was a younger me that I thought had surely been exterminated by adulthood and broken dreams. I saw life as a never ending trail of disillusion and failure as I did not quite measure up to what was expected of me.

The creativity, imagination and zeal that drove the freshman me became liabilities for a middle aged teacher who found himself demanding the kind of conformity and compliance of students that would have surely earned himself the 'douche' tag from a younger me.

But I digress. The train trip that I took was a shot in the dark that I was going to find a Pine State paradise. Unlike most gambles where I leave with a lighter wallet, I found my visit to be a tonic for the soul.

It was not just the salty breeze and the New England charm, it was a long lost sister whose reunion also reunited me with myself. Not only did I drink a lot of Moxie, I found my mojo again. The spirit of a fourteen-year-old boy returned to remind me that there is plenty of fun to be had in life.

As I write this entry, I am thankful for spending time with her and her family. They are the most gracious hosts and their town is a getaway. The ties that we restored have also restored me. That is why I love summering up here. I dedicate this blog entry to M.C. and her wonderful family.

As the next school year begins for this middle school teacher, I already am dreaming of my return to this Down East Shangri-La.

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