Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Let the music play on (play on, play on, play on)

Dear AESers,

I love you. I love all of you.

I miss every one of you I didn't get to see.

I started missing each of you who was there as we hugged goodbye.

We all hugged so much. It wasn't enough time. It's never enough time.
I tell people I have spectacular taste in friends, which is true.

But the fact is I lucked into you.

I lucked into moving back to Delhi and walking down Chandragupta Marg, past the big tree with the vultures outside the front gate, and into AES.

I lucked out by walking into 9th and staying through 12th.

Leaving for college broke my heart. I longed every day to be back in Delhi with all of you, back where I felt safe and loved.

I lucked into you at play practice with Mr. Pepperling, on the field with Coach Connor, passing notes in geometry class with Mr. Gupta, and in typing with Mr. Mitroo. I lucked into drinking fresh lime sodas at ACSA and listening to Purple Rain on the boom box.

And 80s dance music, which is my favorite, is irrevocably linked with dancing every single weekend with you. I will always associate Quiet Riot with Matt's house on the compound and Dire Straits with Jason and Lodi Gardens, and how beautiful is that?

I lucked into walking out of science class with Mr. Robbins and diving with you into huge monsoon puddles that had filled up the soccer field in the torrential downpour in between classes. I lucked into spending every weekend with you, often at the Gunghroo or the #1 at the Taj.

I lucked into Jason kindly being willing to drop me home from parties, because my dad deliberately set my curfew half an hour earlier than everyone else's, and I wasn't allowed to take taxis alone.

I lucked into sleeping at your houses and going dancing anyway, whether or not we had to sneak out past sleeping parents, which I still cannot believe we were so bold as to do.

I lucked into the fact that the smells of India are embedded forever in my heart. When I smell specific blends of spices, it is Delhi. When I smell a particular wood fire smell, it is Kashmir.

When I smell jet fuel, it is every runway I ever walked down getting on or off a plan onto the tarmac. The smell makes me ache for a childhood spent on Pan Am, with plates and glasses and real silverware and space to sleep in front of my parents' feet.

There are scents I cannot identify. But when I smell them, in that olfactory Proustian way, I am home in my heart, though Delhi hasn't been my physical home in over 30 years.

Some of you I only overlapped with my first year, or my last. Some of you I didn't even know in Delhi, because you were there before or after me. But we come to reunions, and we meet, and the spark is there.

And this is my good fortune, my privilege.

We were firmly Breakfast Club era, and I remember watching it in the Embassy theater. (They had such good popcorn.)

It was our era, but not our school. At AES, smart was cool. I can't think of a single person we didn't think was cool, because we didn't specifically think in those terms. Everyone could do anything and everything they wanted to.

We were so tight and supportive that we all did sports and theater and went out dancing together and worked hard to get good grades. Some of us were utter basket cases at the same time others may have thought we were princesses.

I learned recently that my astigmatism is the reason I have poor depth perception. Though I made the volleyball team one year, I sucked at softball, basketball, field hockey, and really any sport where you needed to understand where the ball was in relation to yourself.

I could never figure out where the damn ball was.

Cheerleading, it turned out, was for me. In my dreams, I still own those pom poms.

However. When, during the dancing part of the reunion, three of my fellow cheerleaders and I tried to pose for a cheer shot, we discovered we are not the cheerleaders we used to be.
Get up, Kerry. You're the team captain!
We settled for a pyramid. Of sorts.
And let me tell you, I did not know until last Friday night that field hockey and softball are not typical boy sports in the U.S. Who knew? Carter and Boo, they knew. Or anyway, they learned it upon return to the States.

This weekend someone--was it Andy?--said they thought our personalities are pretty well fixed by high school, and I agreed. We are all the same at core. Just older, wiser, kinder, better versions of ourselves.

Yes, we're older. We have conversations on topics unimaginable in high school: caring for our kids, wrinkle cream, and the possibility of freezing that annoying post-baby low belly fat. The sadness of seeing parents decline. The unkindness of perimenopause.

Some of us have kids out of college, while some of us have kids in pre-K. We've married and divorced and changed names. We've moved and switched jobs multiple times. By now, most of us have lived through the trauma of losing a loved one.

We walk around with splinters and shards, invisible to many who haven't known us so long. These only make us shine brighter in our reflected light.
When we gather, we tell and retell stories from high school. It doesn't matter if I've heard them 50 times; I will always long to hear them once more.

Remind me, Greg, that we have known each other since we were four years old. That we have Halloween pictures of each other as adorable children. That you got to be Santa Claus in the preschool pageant where I was the bitterest Mary in existence, because I had to wear my pajamas and a crocheted afghan.

Tell me, tell me not-specifically-named friends, about that time you stole a Russian diplomatic license plate and almost got caught by the police. Tell me again about the time you did get caught.

Tell me, Jason, tell me your memories of us heading over to Claridge's for cocktails after school. Yes, OK, we headed to Claridge's for cocktails. After school. Not often. Because we had play practice, sports practice, both play and sports practices...

Tell me, Russ. Tell me about that plane trip to Pakistan I don't remember, the one where the plane got hit by lightening and you looked over and Paul A. was crossing himself frantically.

Remind me, Chris, about that time you used a magnifying glass and burned tiny holes in my adorable pink terry cloth romper while I was at the pool. I'd give up a million beloved outfits to the fire gods to be back in 9th grade at the pool at ACSA.

Talk to me about the Maurya Sheraton, Palika Bazaar, the Marine House, the compound, the commissary. Talk about sports conventions, about Limca and Campa Cola. Walk with me down Malcha Marg, or Janpath, or over to Julie's house to watch MTV videotapes.

Those are glory days, just like the Springsteen song.

We're not stuck in them; we've lived beyond, found love, had families, accomplished big things,  created satisfying lives.

But there is nothing that feels so good to me as being in a room filled with you. You're so dear to me, a part of my heart. I never, outside my family, feel so safe and loved as when I'm with you.

I never laugh so hard. I never dance so much. And I never otherwise laugh and dance at the same time.

I never wish so fervently that time would cease to function.

When we are together, we are all 16 or 17, and the most amazing teenagers in existence. We are kind, hilarious, luminous--and all the more so because we've shed insecurities, lived big lives, nurtured others. We've had to say goodbye to people we love dearly.

You're the most generous, loving group of friends I could imagine.

I started this, but so many people put it together. Thank you, Justin, for getting the Friday venue, and thank you Jason for taking charge of the donation. Thank you, Nicole and Paul, and Jason E for supporting me through freakouts about the restaurant flood.

Thank you Wendy's parents, for a lovely afternoon event. Thank you Wendy, Paul, and Jason for amazing playlists. Thank you Jason for DJing, and for organizing my present. I can't thank you all enough.
I didn't need a spa present, and I cannot wait to use it. I hope you know I would organize a gathering every year, because spending the time together is a gift to me.

You knew me when I was young and fragile and living with crazy, but not understanding how much crazy, or how deeply it affected me. I am so grateful that you remember the funny, the clever, the best, most endearing pieces of me.

These are the parts that radiate when I'm with you, because I am so incredibly happy. Who wouldn't want to spend as much time as possible with those who bring out your best, most joyful self?
We ended the night as we ended dance parties back then, in a big circle with All Night Long.

Life is good, wild and sweet. Let the music play on (play on, play on, play on).

I love you and I miss you. And I always will.

Lisa

2 comments:

  1. Janpath was magic land. Your post made me feel like I had been on my own reunion which, Im sure, will be nothing like this. Being friends in an alien land and getting to recollect it all must have been SO lovely. Your dress and you both look spectacular and your group dynamics looks like such crazied (thats definitely not a word) frenzied fun!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Everytime you gather with this group of family, I can feel your happiness. I love that.

    ReplyDelete

Tell me about it.