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School reunion cracks the amber of middle age

  • 06 November 2015

I never thought I'd do the whole high school reunion thing. Yet here I am, walking through the door of the RSL, nametagged, and ready to literally face the music, along with 50 of my fellow Woodridge State High School 1985 alumni.

I recognise some classmates straight off. Others mystify. Teenagers trapped in the amber of middle age.

The bar's a popular disarmer. I go in for hugs, kisses, and clasped shoulders with some, exchange uncertain smiles, handshakes and nods with others.

The extroverts among us mingle, gingerly invoking abandoned dreams. Laughter ensues. We're lubricated by shared stories, snorts, wrinkled brows, starts of recognition; hopes and glasses raised. The music of the '80s haunts us loudly.

Those days are gone forever, I should just let them go but ...

Memory propels the sail of our union and we've left safe harbours. We float past those who praised, preyed and practised on different versions of ourselves. I am legion:

Yeah! I raced against you, I am told.

You were a muso. An actor.

You went out with her.

She shot you down.

You were a brain. A writer. A dag.

You were fast. But shite at maths.

You were the best worst dancer. A cadet under officer. A religious kid.

You were loud. Quiet.

Up yourself. Humble.

All true, all false. All describing a me that doesn't exist anymore. Does he?

Come a little closer ... close enough to look in my eyes ...

Scattered pellets of identity are flung wildly, curiously, as I reciprocate, blurting out varying yarns. Eyes dart busily from faces to name badges to hairlines to physiques.

You look like a Pom (my Melbourne tan).

You look like a professional. (I clarify; a gigolo? Sadly no.)

You look like a solicitor. A politician.

(The real politician among us, Queensland's first female Aboriginal MP, is a mate, and a class act of whom we're rightly proud.)

The nostalgia is easier to bear, more salient, when you overlay the now (double chins, tuck shop arms, beer guts, capacious cleavages etc.) onto the stick figures we were. Some of us are stunning, still. Most of us show some scars.

High school was genuinely hard for many of us. Perhaps that was always going to be true. Some have died. Some entered Boggo Road's then-penal walls. Some are still paying for decisions made back in those mid-80s.

... there's nothing you can say, snake eyes on the paradise and we got to go today ...

At my table we reminisce about absent friends,