Sunday, June 20, 2010

So, I went back to the old neighborhood


Southwood School (at night, duh)
Originally uploaded by V'ron
I grew up in a town called Country Club Hills, which is in the South 'burbs of Chicago, about where I-57 and I-80 cross. It was a good place to grow up. Schools and parks within walking distance, but yanno, it was still the 'burbs and I'm fundamentally a city mouse. So, you may remember that I blew off my high school reunion in favor of the Vertebrats' reunion, but when a call for an old CCH reunion was put out, and I learned that a lot of the kids from the mid-70s Southwood Junior High gang would be there, I couldn't resist.

This had potential to be a bust. I'm normally about playing it by ear and keeping things loose, but "Noon to 8, park changed a the last minute, everybody bring a dish to pass!" was just a little too loose for me. No rain plan, only one port-o-let and god only knows when Midnight Express was gonna play, (much less where they were supposed to plug and and who was gonna run the PA and, oh yeah, who was gonna bring the PA....) Who was Midnight Express? Why, they played at my 8th Grade Graduation! They played at my high school Freshman Mixer! They played at every 4th of July right before the fireworks in Wulf Park, which is misspelled in Google Maps, BTW and they brought acoustic instruments (and a small battery pack) to power the keyboard) over to Atkin Park yesterday and they played there too. They played "Smoke On The Water" back then and they played it yesterday. And they played a selection of tunes from the era and we all kind of realized how old we were.

My childhood best friend (who I haven't talked to in 30 some odd years) was there earlier in the day, and in some respects, it wasn't like anything changed. We both grew up and ended up being into (what's now being called) alt-rock (we did run into each other at the Pretenders show in Champaign in '81, agreeing that Chrissie Hynde was the coolest woman we had ever seen) and we both have this affinity (that i can't explain, but regular sixthstation readers know about this) for Blue Oyster Cult. And she gets Hawkwind! I thought my husband was the ultimate Hawkwind fan, but this girl? Flew out to England to see 'em at a festival because Dave Brock couldn't leave the country.

Susan had to leave earlier in the day, right about when all the other kids from our era were just starting to show up. There were probably 10-15 of us scattered through the day, but there were people I was glad to see. It was like trying to get caught up with the plot of Glee when you only just started watching during the second season (Will Schuester was married to some chick who faked a pregnancy to keep their marraige together?!?!? How'd we miss that?) It was like each of us had 30 seconds to summarize 30 years, oh, there were a few uneasy moments. ("Didn't you have a brother/sister named so-and-so?" "S/he died/flipped out/had an operation and has never been the same.") Admittedly, I was more out of it than others -- many of these folks have kept in way better touch with each other than I did, but I was still amazed at the razor sharp memories we all had, and actually, moments that I could still remember from my youth. Some of us had peaks and valleys: one friend suffered a stroke (and he's doing fine, but he admits "it's just not the same after a storke") there's been weddings (and divorces), sudden deaths of people our age, our kids making us crazy. In short, we all lived lives, and we have great memories of what was a generally collectively good childhood.

I think I approached this with some trepidation because, well, I wasn't exactly Marcia Brady, Most Popular Girl, but as I confirmed yesterday, none of that shit matters now. I also learned that I wasn't the only person who remembers certain people as bullies (oh, let's say it, so-and-so really was a major prick!) but we could just as easily laugh it off now. And the stories we collectively told (somebody would start a story and we'd help each other fill in the details) of various notorious classmates, teachers, and other people in our lives. Oh, and that softball league! The Country Club Hills Girls' Softball League! Funny how time clouds memories:
"The Sunshines were great."
"No, the Sunshines sucked. The Pink Panthers were the team to beat."
"And we beat 'em," said a member of the Violets.
"No, the Sunshines were good, really."
"Well you beat us, the Radicals, once," I admitted. "And we were way too ashamed to go to Dairy Queen afterwards because we'd have to tell people we were beat by the Sunshines."
And then there was a healthy dollop of Let's Confirm Once and For All Stories We'd Always Wondered About:
"Hey, whatever happened to Miss Notorious Teacher? Didn't she have a thing with Johnny GoodlookingStudent?"
"Nooooooooo! Are you kidding?!?!"
"I was in a bar once a few years later in High School when Mr. Nerdy Administrator recognized me and tried to hit on me!"
"Ewwwwww!"
"Remember that time we walked out of school?"

That's how it went. We told lots of stories and had a good time, and it was worth the drive down from Milwaukee. And as I had tweeted, I couldn't have asked for a better night to fly my car up the Dan Ryan expy, up the Edens, windows down, stereo cranked, taking in everything I loved -- and still love -- about the Chicago area in general. It was a perfect summer night, capping off one of, come to think of it, hundreds of perfect summer days in Country Club Hills. This one just happened to be yesterday, not 40 years ago.

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