Caitlin McCarthy is an award-winning screenwriter at international film festivals and labs, Caitlin has a screenplay project in development: RESISTANCE with Populus Pictures and Si Wall (SPEED DATE; THE DINNER PARTY). In addition to screenwriting, Caitlin serves as an English teacher at an inner-city public high school
High School Reunion (and the Prom That Could Have Been) By Caitlin McCarthy
Mr. Stubljar (aka “Mr. Stubes”) my favorite high school teacher (English, of course!) who also served as my advisor at prep school, is retiring this month. He has remained my steadfast champion over the years, reading my screenplays and encouraging me to keep charging the hill – year after year after year.
When I received an invitation from my alma mater to attend a private cocktail party celebrating Mr. Stubes’ retirement (he had put me on his guest list), it was a no brainer for me: I’d be there for him, after all of the years he was there for me. The cocktail party was scheduled two hours before the class reunion dinner. My 25th reunion isn’t until 2013, so no one from my class was going to be there. This dinner was for other classes celebrating their 5th, 10th, 15th, and so on.
You would think that in light of all this, I wouldn’t be stressed. But I was. Why? Because I’ve never attended *any* high school reunions.
Let’s just say that my teen years weren’t the best. We never know what’s going on with people – whether it’s outside circumstances causing them unhappiness or inner turmoil. I seriously dreaded the idea of being thrown back into that time period by attending a reunion. No offense to my classmates, but I’ve avoided you as a group to avoid memories of the past. As longtime readers of this blog know, Olga – my best friend in high school – committed suicide four years ago over a broken engagement. While pulling onto campus for Mr. Stubes’ cocktail party, I saw her everywhere…
…sitting on the benches
…walking to class and talking about the future.
I was tempted to turn around, but I didn’t. I parked my car and headed for the library, where the cocktail party was taking place.
As always, it was great seeing Mr. Stubes. But then the time came for everyone to move over to the gym for the reunion dinner. Upon checking in and receiving my nametag, I discovered that I was sitting at Table 18. Mr. Stubes and his family were sitting one table over, at Table 19.
I was the first to arrive at my table. Nerves set in. Who was going to appear? Suddenly four guys – Garrett, Jack, Pete, and Steve – from the Class of 1986 took seats around me. They laughed over the fact that no one else from their class showed up. Two seats at our table remained empty the entire night. Reunion avoidance is quite common, it seems!
Pete broke out a 1986 yearbook and we spent the entire evening laughing over our Wedding Singer hairstyles. As the guys shared stories with me, Garrett confessed that he had hoped I’d be at the reunion, even though it wasn’t my year. (I’m from the Class of 1988.)
Then Garrett dropped a bombshell. He admitted that he had almost asked me to his senior prom, when I was a sophomore, but had lost the nerve while walking across the quad towards me. He asked another girl on the quad instead!
He then mentioned that *five other seniors* had also wanted to ask me to the prom. But NONE of them ever did. They all assumed I had a date. When I didn’t show up, they kicked themselves.
I told Garrett that during my sophomore year, I was pretty much dateless. I used to sit at the kitchen table with my mother and cry, “What’s *wrong* with me? How come I don’t have a boyfriend?”
Garrett couldn’t believe that. Again, we never know what’s going on with people.
One of the best reunion moments was when the professional photographer asked the Class of 1986 to pose for their group photo. Garrett, Jack, Pete, and Steve insisted I pose with them. In that single moment, high school was revised for me – and captured on film, to boot.
I’m so glad that I got over myself and went back in time for one night. Who knows. I may do it again in two years, at my own 25th reunion. The future, like the past, is full of surprises.
(Photos: downloadtorrents.com & personal photos from the author)