18 September 2016

The Haven

I was invited to my Junior High School reunion this summer. Obviously  I ignored the invitation.  Grade seven was not a happy year for me as I was shy and awkward, and nearly fainted when I was called upon in class. Also, I played the clarinet, which annoyed me, my parents, and even my music teacher. But in a year of un- fun memories, one excursion stand out as the most un-fun memory of all.

Our class took a three day trip to a camp called the ‘Haven’. The main reason I hated it, (and there were many) was that I was squeezed into a tiny dark cabin with five other girls. It was a cabin built for weasels. Our cabin was in the woods, but through the dusty window next to my cot, I could see across an open field to the other cabins. One of these cabins, which had it’s own beach, was nothing less than magnificent. It looked like a Frank Lloyd Wright Cottage; all gentle slopes and generous windows. That cottage, which could fit a small blimp, was assigned to the three prettiest girls in the class. They were the popular girls. And I couldn’t even hate them, because they were all so nice.

It was at the Haven that I realized that certain things were out of my reach. Until then, I thought my insecurities were invisible. And if that was a case, then I still stood a chance. But my teacher put me in a cabin with the ‘undesirables’. Girls like me who wore stretchy pants, mouth guards, and manly shoes. The only person in that cabin who was actually my friend was a good-natured blonde girl who was oblivious to our feral conditions. She’s still my friend today, and the one who is responsible for talking me into going to the reunion. 

Not me. But I wish it was.
Once I committed to going, I decided I going to go in style. The memory of my sh*tty Haven cabin still bugged me, and I wanted to make up for it by staying somewhere nice. In the event that I ended up standing alone by the punchbowl, l needed to be able to escape to Egyptian cotton sheets and a chilled bottle of French wine. Also, if anyone were to ask where I was going, I could drop the name of a nice hotel. And so, I booked the loveliest room in town.

As the reunion neared, I couldn’t stop picturing myself walking into a backyard full of strangers. I was hoping that one of the popular girls might sneak admiring my flat stomach, and wonder how I’d managed to keep in such top-notch shape. For once I hoped they’d talk about it behind my back! And maybe my grade seven crush would be there, and perhaps I’d even have the chance to kiss him.

 A few days before the reunion, I called to confirm my reservation. All was in order, my queen suite awaited, and the staff was looking forward to meeting me on Friday. Unfortunately the reunion was on Saturday. I’d booked the wrong night!  Was there was a chance there was a room free on the Saturday? Um, no. Absolutely not. There was an event in town, and every decent room was booked. Availabilities were limited to a Motel 8, and an ugly B & B with shared bathroom and burlap sheets. I would have a shitty room. It was the Haven all over again.

It was too late to back out. And, I must admit, I had started to embrace the idea of meeting everyone all over again. (I also had a really great outfit). So I booked a crummy motel and tried to make the best of my crummy room. I put my wine on ice and wiped the germs off the door handle, and the converter. Then washed the germs off myself, put on some lipstick and headed to the reunion.
Here’s what happened at the reunion. I did get to hug my crush. And in typical fashion of of a woman who’s lost her filter – I told him I’d always loved him. And then I talked to all the popular girls – who have only gotten even nicer with age. And then I talked to some guys who I didn’t think I knew. 
They’d gone from short and weird, to fabulous. (They didn’t know who I was either). I brought up the subject of the Haven. Apparently nobody had a good time, but for different reasons. Bugs, food poisoning, scalding by smores…the list went on. But nobody remembered the cabins. It was my memory, and mine alone. 

After six glorious hours under the summer sky, it was time to leave. Sally, the most beautiful girl on the planet, drove me home. “Where are you staying?” she asked. I told her, and as the words came out of my mouth I felt like Cinderella leaving the ball, and traveling back to her hovel in a pumpkin (actually an Audi).

She stopped the car in front of the my plain looking hotel. ‘Is it nice inside?’ she asked. ‘No,’ I told her, briefly mentioning my booking error at the nicer place, which just happened to be where she was staying. ‘Fuck!’ I said, ‘Is it fabulous?’  She smiled kindly, ‘It’s okay, not really a big deal.’

I stared her down with my best grade seven squint. ‘Alright’ she laughed, ‘It’s absolutely brilliant!’

Rats. The nice hotel had been within my reach - but I'd just missed it. My own fault, really. Sally and said good night and I went into my one star hotel where the sheets were brittle, but the view of the lake was pretty. Once again the memory would be only mine, and this time it was mostly funny.