The Rufe’s Basement

I went to my 50th high school reunion just a bit ago. I wasn’t going to attend because my closest friends wouldn’t be there. Tom died decades ago; Don decades after that, and I found out the day before the reunion that Drew had also died. Turns out I’m the last man standing. Should have started a tontine.

But a relentless campaign at almost the felony level by one of the organizers forced my surrender. And I’m glad, because it turned out great, just great. I got to say something to someone I’ve wanted to say for fifty years. You know who you are. I reforged a friendship with someone I’d abandoned years ago, Carol. And I was completely surprised by someone else, Barbara. 

There were 405 of us in that class, and only about 100 showed up. Out of that 405, 88 have already died. That gives us a mortality rate of about 22%. Not looking good for the home team.

I’m not going to show you any pictures because it would look like outtakes from the Night of the Living Dead. Not going into specifics because we only knew each other, and you know only each other, and you don’t want to hear boring stories of glory days. But I did realize something; I don’t want to go back and do it all over. Oh no, not at all. I had some really bad times in high school. But I do want to go to the Rufe’s basement.

The Rufe’s lived across the street from my apartment complex. The Rufe’s daughter periodically rounded up all the orphans living there and herded us into the basement. It became our hangout, our sanctuary. Home. Mrs. Rufe fussed over us and fed us and Mr. Rufe teased us and was always there to listen and it was a family. It’s why I love That 70s Show so much. It was just like that. 

I had two other safe havens: Don’s house and the Willingboro Karate Club, and I moved between all three of them seeking shelter from the storm (enough with the song references!).  I guess I had a rather traumatic childhood and adolescence, and it was the Rufe’s, Don, and Forrest who helped me survive it.

But as much as I would really like going back to the Rufe’s basement, the current owners would probably call the police. And I’m not really sure what that would accomplish, anyway. No doubt, it’s now filled with old furniture and our wall carvings have been plastered over, so what’s to see? Somebody’s old stash hidden behind the water heater?

No. I think what I really want, what everyone wants, is the sense of it, the peace and satisfaction of it. It was a place where all your crazy friends did crazy things and you just wished the night would go on forever. Man, I miss that. You do, too. All of you had a place like that. It might have even been your home. And we all want to go back.

And. you know, you may think I’m crazy, but that next morning when I was sitting on my brother’s porch sipping his really sucky coffee thinking about all this, I heard a word, probably in my mind but I’d like to think it was whispered in my ear: “Wait.” Just have to wait. In whatever method and at whatever time, we’re all going back to the Rufe’s basement. Don, Drew, and Tom are all there now, warming the place up.

So Jane, George, Butch, Bob, Jayne, Selina, Karen, Wash, Kathy, Carol, Marie, Kevin? I’ll see you all there. Got dibs on the big couch.

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