The text read, Come to room 307.
I adjusted my Spanx, grabbed the overnight bag and made my way up from the lobby. Behind the door stood two of my senior year gal pals, Shazzie and Pumpkin.
Although introduced in seventh grade and kindergarten, respectively my adult relationship with these ladies had fizzled to comments, likes and emojis. No matter. There was an easy joy about being together again.
We moved through pleasantries and tossed out filters. First order of business: pre-25th high school reunion cocktails. After a few sips, we got reunion ready while discussing work, shoes, travel, preferred products for color treated hair and of course, raising kids.
“When my son turned three,” Shazzie said, “I told a friend, this boy can’t get more cuddly, loveable, or sweet. He’s peaked. Now, every year on his birthday she calls me and asks, is it true he peaked at three?”
“Well?” I said.
Shazzie pulled out her phone and played the recent I love you, Mom message her hoarse voiced tween left when a sleep away camp counselor returned his phone during a field trip. “Not yet,” she replied.
We sipped some more, snapped selfies sporting party outfits and solo cups, and made our way to the main floor. I slapped on my name tag and entered the windowless, dim, pint-sized banquet hall. Waiting was a small gathering of some 125 classmates from my rural town. It was as if my mom had dropped me off at the 8th grade dinner dance equip with a cash bar.
And I wondered, had I peaked? Had any one of us peaked?
Determined to find out, I shimmied past the DJ and hot buffet, quickly refilled my cup and began to flutter about the room.
I ran into my old locker neighbor, intrigued by the cross-country mountain biking adventures he shares with his wife, concurred with my former art class tablemate who opened a restaurant after rediscovering his creativity through cooking, and was happy for the classmates who came out, found love and live life open and proud.
I chatted with my elementary school bus buddy who embraced her small town roots, adores fur babies and helps to raise her nephews, admired the crew huddled around a table who, despite time and distance sustained their decades long friendship, told Pumpkin, a working mother who nurtured her artistic talents and built an impressive career in advertising, a girl I envied as a child how I respected her, and nestled up next to my high school crush; a sweet gentleman close to retiring from a career in law enforcement who looks forward to tending his Christmas Tree farm.
Many of my classmates married; most are raising children, some are nurturing sick parents. They have been graced with experience lines and silver hairs but the essence of who they were as children lives on.
And not one of them has peaked; not the jocks, pretty chicks, worker bees, artsy rebels, drama queens or goodie two shoes. Each seemed content with who they became; aware there’s more growth to be had.
And I, who was remembered for big hair, oversized sweaters and an even larger opinion felt inspired by my first friends.
When the clock struck midnight, the lone security guard directed us to the hotel’s neighboring bar, ushering me back to the 21st century. I thought about my own tween who was due back from sleep away camp the following week and a concerned letter he wrote about his lovie. Please sew Baby Lamb when I get home. I don’t like when he loses stuffing.
Middle school is on the horizon for my boy and so begins the battle of growing up. I can already feel his struggle; the image, fitting in, friendships, the wrestle with self and his place in the world.
I’ll continue to offer the mother to son advice he has come to hear ad nauseum: follow your passion, stay kind, always be yourself.
But from now on I’ll be sure to add, Hang tight. You’ll make it through. Just remember, no peaking allowed.