It was the combined events of a high school reunion and my mother's 70th birthday that brought me to my childhood town this long, Columbus Day weekend. I had to shuffle Kenny off to his cousin's house Saturday night as children were not welcome at the reunion dinner. Turnout was low, mostly us out-of-towners. As one old classmate put it, the locals see each other all the time.
I'd never been to the Batavia Country Club before, so I wasn't sure I was in the right place. On the one hand, the voices in the group entering ahead of me sounded vaguely familiar. Yet, on the other hand, they were also just typical Western New York accents. Turns out I knew them as we graduated less than 100 students 25 years ago: we all knew just about everybody then.
I wasn't late, really, returning to the hotel after Saturday evening mass momentarily to retrieve the camera I'd forgotten. I grabbed my one and only alcoholic drink from the cash bar, a white Russian. I'd been up since 4:30 AM, driven 8+ hours, eaten only breakfast and expected to be out until 11:30 or 12 so, as refreshing as the drink was, I did not take a second one. I allowed myself some caffeinated soda instead.
I felt awkward without Jeff. Not everyone had "a date," so being alone wasn't the issue. It was just hard to get past the superficial questions of "Where do you live? What do you do for a living?" And I couldn't remember anything anyone said. We posed for a group photo and watched a video provided by the family of a classmate who'd died in a car crash within a few years of graduation. It became obvious from the remarks made aloud during the showing of that video that some people were already drunk.
Mercifully, dinner was served rather quickly after that. I tried to join a particular table but there wasn't room so I moved to the next one. I felt as if I was following the same people around all night. I wonder whether they noticed. Like I was "clinging." At dinner, we were regaled with the absurd ramblings of a "much older" drunken spouse. My old classmates were polite to him, answering his personal questions. I would not. He got the message and moved on.
As I said, the turnout wasn't great and the hall had a minimum number of 80 people. We were half that, if even. How to raise the difference? Raffles and 50/50's. That's right. After dinner, a line formed in the back, near the bar, and people put down 20's for a strip of ten tickets. I followed suit but declined putting my tickets in the raffle jar. The prizes were for local services anyway, a round of golf at the country club, gift card to the local grocery chain. And the 50/50 prize went to a reunion organizer who almost certainly contributed out of pocket for decorations, etc. Besides, I abhor gambling in any form.
The DJ did a fantastic job. He wasn't intrusive and played the songs we'd requested. He had a setup for karaoke. Believe it or not, I've never done karaoke. A group of us went up and sang the class song, REO Speedwagon's "Time for Me to Fly." I wasn't drunk in the least and found karaoke to be alot of fun!
As the night wore on and more and more people left, it became difficult to find anyone to talk to. Many people were around the bar, but it wasn't as bad as in reunions past. There was a TV at the bar so that helped a bit. I noticed that my former classmates weren't very generous with the bar staff in regards to tips. Drinks were $5 and I saw very little money coming back or being left. So before I called it a night, I gave the girl a $20 - wish it could have been more - and she was appreciative.