I was surprised and saddened to learn on Christmas Day of the death of George Michael. My preoccupation with serving dinner for 20 prevented me from dwelling on it too much…until I returned to work a few days later. While slogging through year-end reviews, I indulged in listening to some Wham!.
I know for some people scents are memory triggers, but for me nothing snaps me back to a point in time quite like a certain song. Hearing “Freedom” and “Wake Me Up” took me right back to my awkward high school days, complete with plaid uniform skirt, knee socks (also uniform) and penny loafers.
I graduated from high school in 1986, and this past summer I attended my 30 year reunion (translation: I’m old) after not having attended a reunion for 25 years. As terrified as I was, my ONE friend with whom I was in contact persuaded me to attend, and I’m so grateful that she did.
I had visions of extreme personal fitness, wealth, and beautiful spouses amongst my former classmates. It would be a shit show of one-upsmanship, which would not fare well for me, I was sure, since I was somewhat recently single and more than a few pounds over my high school weight. Most frightening, perhaps, was whether anyone would even remember me. I was solidly forgettable in high school, not popular but not necessarily un-popular, neither beautiful nor ugly, quite unremarkable in either direction as far as grades, not on any sports teams (note: I did keep the stats for the girls’ basketball team). Probably the most memorable thing about me was a quirky and oft mispronounced last name, which I happily shed when I married at 22. I imagined people squinting at my nametag, trying to place me. What possible reason could I have to return to that phase of my life?
But I did attend, bolstered by the enthusiasm of the organizers in our Class of ’86 Facebook group. I don’t know if everyone would have a similar experience, but I found it somewhat cathartic. I did not encounter the snobbery that I had feared, and (this part was shocking) people were not the same as they were in high school. Crazy! I even talked to some boys, which I rarely did 30 years ago! I felt a nice peaceful calm being amongst people with a shared background, altering (in a positive way) my perception of my high school years. Who cares if my memory is distorted? For me, it’s better than looking back at myself as kind of a dull wallflower.
So when I had a few minutes to spend with George Michael this week, it made me feel happy to be transported back 30 years but sad that something I correlate with that time period is gone.
Rest in peace, George.
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