Speech to the Denfeld Class of 1991

Here we are at Mr. D’s Bar & Grill for our 20-year high-school reunion. I’d like to say right off the bat that this place has never stopped playing music from our generation, but go ahead and lose your mind when Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing” comes on the sound system, as if it’s a really special moment that’s taking you back to the old days for the first time since our 10-year reunion.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could possibly escape the music from our high school days at some point, maybe just for a month or so, to allow us the opportunity to legitimately get nostalgic about it at our reunions?

It seems that making fun of our era has actually become its own cliché. Protruding bangs and curly mullets! M.C. Hammer! White Lion! Zubaz! Winger! Pinning pants at the ankles! Church Lady! Vanilla-freaking-Ice! Our high-school years are indisputably cheesy when we focus on popular culture, because popular culture is always cheesy, whether it’s sock hops and poodle skirts, disco and bell bottoms, or sexting and Justin Bieber. Those are not the things that bind a class together.

Having been sequestered in the same building for a handful of formative years is what makes us brothers and sisters. We certainly didn’t all get along and love each other unconditionally — that’s for sure — but a great number of friendships were forged around that clock tower, and that’s what we celebrate tonight. Professing Denfeld exceptionalism and calling upon our “Hunter Pride” are not really necessary.

On a side note concerning the bonds of our shared experience, it’s interesting to consider that some of our classmates actually managed to marry each other. Though most of us had to move on to find long-term requited love — or are perhaps still searching — it’s nice to know some of our Denfeld family’s incestuous romances continue to this day, producing inbred children who will soon have their own chances at finding high school sweethearts. Hopefully they’ll be sparking on each other to a better song than Motley Crüe’s “Without You.”

High school is but a microcosm of our lives, of course, and I have little doubt that all of us have at some point been on both ends of the bullying that occurs as we joust for status throughout our existence. When reunions roll around it can bring up yearnings for atonement. Let us forgive our 20-year-old trespasses. You shouldn’t have called me a dork, and I shouldn’t have dropped a spitball down the back of your pants. I’m glad we can move on now.

Five of our classmates are deceased, and as the old joke goes, some of you aren’t feeling so hot yourselves. I’m relieved to say I feel fantastic at age 38, and if any of you are taking what you have for granted, I have a pair of slippers for you. They’re Doug Bragg’s slippers.

Doug died from leukemia 17 years ago, and his slippers have been making the rounds ever since. I’ve had them for about two years now. When something silly starts to upset me, I put them on. About three seconds of that straightens me out.

Though I am sentimentally attached to Doug’s slippers, I’ll pass them on to you in a minute if you’d like them. You are part of the family, after all.

Paul Lundgren is a newspaper columnist and a very nice man. His book, "The Spowl Ribbon," is available online at paullundgren.com.