Rendered Fat Content


"A few of these people will always be my friend."

Who did you grow up to be? Probably just who you always were before. I sincerely doubt if any of us ever grow up. Most of us tend to outgrow some of our more troubling tendencies, but most often by some form of out growth rather than by growing much taller than the least of them. Fifty years later, one might manifest a more reliably consistent version of their earlier self without really growing up much. We seem to remain the same kids imbedded within ever bigger people's bodies, still growing into who we probably always were. I speak of we when you probably suspect that I mean 'I', for I can't really know how it must be for you. If you sincerely feel as though you grew up, I say, "God Bless You," and "How did you do that?"

A fiftieth reunion of a high school graduating class comes only once, never to be repeated again. It comes at a reliably inconvenient time,
and my first instinct whispers that I won't be able to attend. It's a long way back to there and then and the road seems to be under continual construction. They were working on that road when I left and they're still not finished with it yet. The town also little resembles its there and then self, affecting now a quaintness bordering on the derivative, a small city transformed into a wine destination, cute crap shoppes lining what was once a more utilitarian and practical Main Street. No haberdashery anchors the downtown business district now. Hardly any businesses, either, having given way to leisure services: food, drink, and the odd upscale Macy's, which somehow survived, though it was formerly The Bon Marche, a name that connoted more than it ever delivered. But then the past has always been like that, profligately promising and only intermittently delivering.

In San Francisco, they say that if you remember the sixties, you probably weren't there, for anyone who was present there and then could not have possibly retained any coherent memory of the experience. Fifty years can accomplish the same result without ever once dropping acid at a Dead concert. Memories love nothing more than playing practical jokes, filing accomplishments under unlikely headings and encounters under wholly misleading ones. My former classmates remember my presence there and then much better than I recall my own attendance. I learned early in my high school career that my best strategy for surviving laid in staying just as invisible as possible, for I couldn't help but appear to be a walking violation of about half the values the administration was so desperately trying to instill in their youth. I smoked, for instance, which left me little better off than a sneak thief, hiking to the far reaches of the football field during lunch period, where I could bury my butts beneath the turf should any overseer head in my direction. My hair hovered on the edge of too long and unruly. I could not seem to comport myself as a young gentleman should, so I studied invisibility, aching for all the usual teen-aged recognition while feeling natively alienated in my own home town.

I do not wish to reunite with my dissociated past, for I have spent many of the intervening years learning to better associate with my surroundings. I remain deep down inside a loner, essentially unchanged in that respect, but perhaps a better-adjusted loner than I ever was then. I listen to others' recollections of a me I hardly knew then, and can only very distantly relate to now. I wondered before I walked into that reunion hall just who I would discover myself to be this time. Would The Big Mean Guys still chide my ass? Would the once unapproachable beautiful girls still seem so distant and cold? Would every last one of us have turned suddenly and irredeemably old? What would there and then have to disclose? Could any of us any more than pretend to have once been close?

We were each civil, though whispers mumbled around the periphery. We accurately recreated the vibe even if the actors didn't quite seem to gibe with their roles. Who did you grow up to be? Have you seen old so-and-so? Thank heavens that we're old enough now that the overseers have all left the premises and that the times have moved on to beyond the point where anyone's terribly interested in how any budding gentleman might comport himself in public. Police cruisers weren't floating by around the periphery of this party. No semi-secret wars were simmering in Southeast Asia, having long ago been relocated to the Middle East and now even closer to home. We now distrust anyone UNDER thirty and buy our dope legally, and nobody's watching us as we wander out to the far reaches of the football field during lunch hour.

Many report that they've moved back home, though home's a long way from where any of us grew out of then. A few of these people will always be my friend.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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