‘Homesick for everywhere,’ the nascent irrelevance of high school reunions

Even though we’re reuniting tomorrow night, Crystal and I talked on the phone for two and a half hours this evening. To be fair, we took the first 30 minutes to coordinate travel plans. After that, we spent an hour laughing and reminiscing about the past, which is oddly comforting in spite of some of our traumatic junior high school dance memories.

A few weeks ago, one of the interns asked if I would be attending my 5-year high school reunion. I’d never heard of a 5-year reunion before, but apparently tons of schools host these gatherings for folks who simply can’t wait another five years to return to high school. I mentioned this to Crystal, who said high school reunions in general are becoming increasingly irrelevant. With Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, and now Google+, it’s pretty easy to keep tabs on in touch with old classmates if you please. Social media kind of spoils any potential surprises that would surface at these events.

Suffice it to say, we probably won’t go to the 10-year reunion, unless of course we decide to collaborate on a column about the undoubtedly awkward experience. There’s no way we’d make an appearance without each other and Nikita.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, October 2009

I expressed an interest in getting the three of us together for one of our hilarious reunions, but it dawned on me that we’ll have to worry about a babysitter for the following meet-up. Though we’ll surely enjoy catching up, Nikita will miss little Brandon all night long. Good parents never want to be away from their kids for long periods of time. Nikita thinks the world of her week-old son, who can already smile.

Creepster cat stares at Brandon!

After slipping into childhood memory lane, Crystal and I discussed our respective college experiences. Though we went to different universities, the two of us remained close throughout our academic careers. We adored our schools, so the both of us acquire lumps in our throat upon reflection of that four-year period. Crystal recently visited UC Davis, where she did her undergrad studies, and was overcome with nostalgia and sadness upon seeing summer school students bike to class. That used to be her. That was me when I visited her in April 2007. Crystal hadn’t been to the campus since graduating last June, so the atmosphere was a lot to take in after a year away.

I feel the same about the University of Arizona, but I was lucky enough to travel back to Tucson three times after moving to D.C., so I don’t miss my alma mater to the same extent. For the longest time, I behaved as if I never left. It took until April 2011 to mentally check out of southern Arizona, so I have no desire to get back there until Homecoming. On the other hand, I miss Jazmine, Luke, Dyanna, Kendra, Anna, and several other Tucsonans dearly, but I simply can’t keep running back to my college town every time I want to feel super young again. New York City is much closer, and I have an inexplicable desire to venture up there by myself sometime soon. That Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met is awfully tempting.

During our college chat, Crystal said she feels deep homesickness for two places at once. A grad student in Oregon, she frequently misses her California hometown. Now, she longs for her days as an undergrad. We’re being pulled in a million different directions.

I miss the bay area as well, but not half as much as I pine for Tucson. I miss drinking chocolate iced mochas outside of Espresso Art, unaffected by the triple digits outside. I miss the friendly female baristas at Canyon Cafe, which most students criticized but I loved. I miss venturing to Kappa Alpha with Tracey, who finished college without ever having to make a trip to the library. I miss kissing guys who give me goosebumps. I miss Thirsty Thursdays at Gentle Ben’s and darting my eyes around the bar in search of a certain someone. I miss Wednesday dance nights at the Cactus Moon club, where my friends and I interacted with some of the weirdest people we’ve ever met. I miss dropping Jazmine off at her house and inadvertently spending six hours cracking up in the car with her on 100 degree afternoons. I miss “Troll 2” marathons with Jazmine and Luke. I miss Target excursions with Anna. I miss driving home from parties and boys’ houses after the sun has already risen. I miss charging up the three flights of stairs to my NorthPointe apartment and feeling breathless upon reaching the front door. I miss 3:00 a.m. trips to Nico’s Taco Shop. I miss long-winded newsroom conversations with Anna, Luke, and Jazmine that prevented each of us from filing stories on deadline. I miss the exhilarating feeling of picking up the college newspaper and seeing my byline sprinkled throughout the issue. I miss meeting people who already know my name from my Wildcat pieces. I even miss all the hate mail I’d receive for my opinion columns.

Though I’d sacrifice a lot to re-live any given day at college, I truly love the life I lead right now aside from being so far away from long-time friends. It’s because of this that I can’t totally call California my home anymore. Tucson, with its eclectic coffee shops, cheerful residents, cacti, and reliable sunshine, has earned that title.

Besides, there’s almost nothing about my childhood residence that has remained the same since my senior year of high school, when tragedy struck. My mom has remodeled and repainted the house so many times that I can’t recall what it used to look like. To give you an idea of the house’s physical changes, here are some snapshots of my bedroom transformations:

My room in summer 2007
My room, painted white, in 2009
My room, as fixed up by my mom's boyfriend, in 2010

My 11-year-old dog Roxy appears distraught in that final photograph, but who could blame her? By 2010, her routine had shifted so much that she apparently quit seeking consistency. If you ask my mom and Glenn, the dog experienced extreme anxiety from lacking structure (oh, Californians). I didn’t mind that I no longer had a bedroom, but I did miss having a sense of predictability at home.

Earlier today, I realized that Roxy is the only aspect of my home life that has remained the same since 2006. In the past five years, the house has gone through more makeovers than those awful reality shows, the man of the house has changed thrice, and all the furniture is brand new. The family pet has been my sole constant and main incentive to go back to California (aside from seeing my mother, of course). Call it silly if you will, but I take my hat off to young Roxy, a reminder of the way things used to be and should have stayed.

I’ll write a “Marley and Me” style post when I have more time, but for now, take a moment to honor my wild, undisciplined Terrier who comforts sick humans, instantly recognizes when others feel sad, and leads a spry lifestyle in spite of old age.

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