Column: Exorcising demons over brie & chablis

Now I know why I never took me Ma’s advice on becoming an educator.

She was a teacher, in her case in both Catholic and public schools, and many in me family followed that career path, from her dad, Dr. John Brophy, down to baby brother Dennis.

Which made me the black sheep and thus kept me out of many a Thanksgiving table discussion, such as, “You think the superintendent you work with is an idiot? Let me tell ya about the fathead I’m saddled with.” Was like watching tennis.

Which brings me to my 40th high school reunion in early August. Yes, that was a month ago, but I’ve been busy, you know.

Earthquake, hurricane, that sort of thing. So sue me, why dontcha?

Anyway, at said reunion it fell upon me to take the class picture, largely because I possess both camera and tripod. Not that that’s a major accomplishment. I mean, really, who brings a tripod to a reunion?

The organizers had suggested letting people get reacquainted for a bit before taking the shot along the edge of green at the golf course where us aging Catholic kids gathered. The folly of scheduling a photo deep into the cocktail hour soon became all too apparent.

Ever hear the expression “It was like herding cats”? I’m standing there, arms flailing like one of those big inflatable figures outside a car dealership, screaming “Hey! HEY! Over here, OK! Will you all shut up for one #$%& minute! Listen, tall people in the back!

Please, look this way! Hey! HEY!”

Go through that 180 days a year? Don’t know how teachers do it, outside of the heavy drinking, that is.

I mention that, boys and girls, as the only blot on an otherwise wonderful evening. Meaning, of course, that my pre-reunion Nervous Nelly fretting and sweating was a total waste of time. I enjoyed meself thoroughly — well, save for fallout from coming home at 5 a.m. Sunday, but more on that later.

It was an exorcism as much as it was a reunion, without the levitating beds and spinning heads, although I’m sure a few experienced something like that the next morning. The ghost of the athletically challenged, socially awkward, frightened-of-females C-student was cast out. There seemed an unspoken understanding among us all that past accomplishments and failures meant nothing. No adolescent angst or enmity lingered. We all started with clean slates and much good-hearted merriment ensued.

And, would you believe it, several females dragged my … self out onto the dance floor. That’s a big deal for a gentleman of generous proportions who has never voluntarily danced outside of a few well-oiled weddings. Made the Tin Man look like Fred Astaire, but what the heck. Dance I did and survived to tell the tale.

And conversed with female classmates, without dry mouth or cracking voice. During one such conversation I had two trains of thought running on parallel tracks. My mouth was cracking wise, as usual, while the brain wondered whether to admit to the woman that she had been my first real crush.

Should I joke about it? Offer the admission, then add, “Boy, it just goes to show ya how stupid we could be back then”? No. Explaining away the resulting shiner as the result of an eye-doorknob encounter wouldn’t fly. Nor would saying it straight, which might come across as really, really creepy. As in, “Hey, Honey, wanna have a reason to go to confession?” creepy.

Concluding that discretion is the better part of cowardice, I kept it to meself. Some truths need never be told.

Speaking of truth, I was at a table with a couple of classmates during the after-reunion party, drinking water of all things, laughing and swapping tales when the barkeep sidled up and said, “Look, I’m sorry, but it’s almost 4 o’clock.” As in the a.m.? Oh, saints preserve us, I’m a dead man! Figuring it too late to call, I hied me home. Thank heaven we don’t own a rolling pin or firearms.

I am soooooooo sorry. I just completely lost track of the time. Really, had my second and last drink at about 10, but was having so much fun that … Did I dance? Yeah, but … Who with? Yes, I had a crush on her, but … Can we talk about this tomorrow? Uh, you’re right, it IS tomorrow. Confession? Trust me, no need to go, more’s the pity.

What? No, I didn’t say anything. Not a word.

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