I blame this entirely on my mother. She’s been asking me to find some old photos of a play that I was in when I was in eighth grade. I finally went down to the basement today to see if the pictures were in a box down there. They were, so I started scanning them so that I could send her electronic copies. It didn’t take long before I was mildly obsessed with googling and facebooking my old classmates to see what had happened to some of them. One search led to another, and before I knew it I had spent the entire afternoon looking people up online, signing up for the alumni associations of my high school and undergraduate institutions, and joining classmates.com!

I went to junior high in Nederland, Texas. Nederland is a small residential community outside of Beaumont. We moved there when I was starting sixth grade. I was in the “theater arts” class in part of seventh and all of eighth and ninth grades. The seventh-grade class was just an introduction to theater arts; in eighth and ninth grades we participated in producing plays and other theatrical events. Our first play was a production of The Wizard of Oz, a one-act version based more on the book than the 1939 movie. These were the pictures that my mom wanted. I thought I’d share a few here.

Here’s Dorothy as she arrived in Oz. She’s talking to our Glinda and the munchkins:

I played the scarecrow.

My mom made my costume. If you look closely, you’ll see the striped socks that I’m wearing. I still have them. They’re not wearable, of course, but I’ve always kept them as a memento of when I first fell in love with theater.

I was particularly adept at falling over, since I didn’t know how to walk until Dorothy taught me how:

My best friend, Jeff, played the Tinman and our friend Kevin played the Lion. We all look so cute in these costumes!

Just two more pictures. Here’s our Wicked Witch of the West:

The Wicked Witch and her minions strung me up on another scarecrow post so that I couldn’t get away:

I love this picture of me. I might have to make it my facebook profile picture!

Overall, being in theater arts was a lot of fun, but what I remember most about this production was how difficult it was. Our teacher believed in putting the new students — the eighth graders — in the lead roles, which is why I got to be the Scarecrow. The ninth graders then took more subordinate parts. This put a lot of pressure on us newbies, and I definitely recall how difficult it was to learn our lines. Even the final production was plagued by our forgetting our lines. It must have been terrible to have to sit through!

Later that year, we put on a play called The Land of the Dragon. I played the evil Covet Spring, who conspired with another character to steal the throne of China. For some reason, I don’t have any really good pictures of that production, though I do have a couple of the dress rehearsal. Here’s one, just to give a taste:

Once I started scanning these pics, I began wondering what had happened to some of the people in them. So, I started googling. I found out that my best friend is a school counselor in the same school district that we attended when we were in these plays. (I moved away to Bryan between ninth and tenth grades; he stayed there through high school.) Another classmate, the guy on the right in that last picture is now a lawyer in Dallas.

From there, I started googling people from high school. I was particularly interested in finding my friend Chris, who is apparently now an art teacher and artist. Some of her work is online and looks really interesting. I found an email address for her, so I might try emailing her sometime this week to see what she’s up to. The last time I saw her was shortly after I came out. We ran into each other at a party, and I felt really awkward about it, since I hadn’t come out to anyone from high school at that point. We emailed back and forth for a while, but lost eventually touch.

I then got out my high school yearbooks and started looking up other people I remembered. My first thought in looking back at them was just how cute so many of my male classmates were — I think I was too timid and afraid that my sexual orientation might be found out — and that I would have to acknowledge it — to notice at the time.

I really got into the search, so I joined the Bryan High School alumni webpage and then classmates.com. At least one of the guys from my graduating class is also out now. He lives in California with his partner. (I don’t have any strong memories of him, so I don’t think I’ll get in touch with him.)

This year is my twentieth high school reunion. I’m not going, of course. Until a little while ago, I would have said that I couldn’t have cared less about it or the people I went to school with. But after an afternoon of remembering and thinking about them, I kind of wish I could see them all again. It would be interesting to see what’s become of them, what they look like, who they are now, etc.

Classmates.com has a function where you can upload then-and-now pictures. I didn’t, but it did make me think about how much I’ve changed since then. Here’s what I looked like when I graduated from high school:

I think I’m trying to look serious and grownup here (and even though it kind of looks like I have a black eye here, I don’t). I think that’s my diploma that I’m holding. The hood is from National Honor Society.

It’s been a pretty good twenty years since that picture was taken. I graduated summa cum laude from Texas A&M University and then went on to earn my M.A. there and my Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee. I landed an ideal job, one that I really enjoy. I’ve published a monograph and a few scholarly articles. I came out. I’ve been in love twice. The first time didn’t quite work out romantically, but he’s now a cherished friend and I love him dearly. The second time continues to become richer and fuller every day that we’re together. I co-own a house. PJ and I have two wonderful cats and a number of great friends. All in all, I don’t see how these years could have been better.

I’ve had a very happy life so far. I sincerely hope my junior high and high school friends have fared as well.