Just got off a fifty-year reunion of the old Hostel Club on Zoom. It’s important to maintain old friendships. Old friends can keep you honest in a way your newer friends, who have only known you since you refined your shtick and curated your image, can’t.

For instance, I’ve been known to comment that I’ve never been driven. I wear my lack of ambition as an obscure badge of pride, even though at its heart it derives from a condition of feeling easily satisfied with things, also known as laziness. 

Anyway, I say that I’ve never been driven, but I still have friends left from high school who know better, because they drove me. Lots. All the time. It was embarrassing. But that’s what happens when you fall in with a really cool group of funny, smart people who get together in each other’s rec rooms and have a great time, but you, yourself, are still two years shy of getting a driver’s license and your parents, who are unspeakably old, think you should be home by ten pm.

It all seemed deeply unfair, even though I was fourteen years old, and I was playing with nineteen-year-olds, and I was known to wear skirts that didn’t even cover my personal fourteen-year-old situation.

Which means all my friends were having a really good time right around ten pm, and I had to wander around the party trying to work up the gumption to ask someone who’s having the aforementioned really good time if they could stop everything and give me a ride home.

Oh, the humanity.

I know my parents couldn’t believe the fun we were having was clean and innocent. But it was. You know, mostly. Whatever happened in Stuart’s pitch-black bomb shelter stayed in Stuart’s bomb shelter. I don’t even know what I wasn’t doing in there, or who I wasn’t doing it with.

I was just beginning to get my social feet under me in tenth grade, just starting to come out the recovery side of adolescence, and this new group of friends in the Youth Hostel Club was the place to do it–we called it “being in with the Out Crowd,” and were, for the most part, not naughty, individually shy, and collectively a dang hoot. Still, I was very young, and one doesn’t always know if one is going to be accepted.

That all changed the night the People-Bop hit my house. The People-Bop: it was never announced in advance, but an hour before dawn, someone would decide to start collecting people in Lynn Malone’s VW bus and head off to a park for breakfast and fun, in this case rappelling down a sheer cliff at Carderock Recreational Area. I woke in the dark to the sound of gravel hitting my second-floor window and my heart about busted in half to look out and see my friends grinning on the lawn, motioning me down, and telling me to bring eggs.

Oh god. They had no way of knowing if this was something I could do, and neither did I. First I had to tiptoe into my parents’ room and wake one of them up and ask if it was okay to go flying out the door with my friends at oh dark thirty. Not at all a sure thing. Not at all sure anyone else had to ask permission, or what I’d do if I had to lean out the window and say my mommy wouldn’t let me go. But she did. Then I took a deep breath and asked if I could take some eggs. Our family wasn’t known for extravagance.

But I could.

Thank you, Mommy, for that rare lapse of judgment, and thank you, good friends of the Hostel Club, for picking me up on my first People-Bop, for giving me that sweet whiff of future independence, for letting me know I belonged with the best people ever. Thanks also for dangling me on a rope over that damn cliff, and I’m sorry if I urinated on anyone. Thanks.