30 years later


My 30th High School reunion is coming up and I’ve been a little nervous about going. As I watch the stream of old photos get posted on the SHS Reunion Facebook page, I can’t help but be apprehensive. I keep looking at the photos thinking about who I was thirty years ago, who I am now, and where I thought I would be.

I’m guessing/hoping that I’m not alone.

It’s not that I’m ashamed of who I was during my high school years, it’s just that I am not particularly proud. I never felt like I had a real “roll”. I did have a group of amazing girlfriends (many still close friends), but I never felt like a star student or a dedicated athlete or a talented artist — and that was one of the few things I was kinda good at. I was a solid C+ across the board.

Maybe no one really felt completely confident in high school. Maybe everyone cringes when they think of themselves as a teenager. But, when I look at the old pictures being posted on Facebook, there are a few faces that not only always looked happy with who they were, but they seemed to own the room. I look at the pictures of me and, maybe to the untrained eye you can’t see the insecurity in my 16 year-old smile, but it screams out to me now.

And, it’s not just who I was in high school that has me uncomfortable about this reunion, it’s who I am now. At our 20th reunion Jack was just out of the hospital following his stem cell transplant. That reunion was a blur (and not just because of the wine). I didn’t know what to say when people asked what I was doing with my life.

“Married, two kids, live in Maplewood, still work on my photography. Oh, and my son has a disease called Adrenoleukodystrophy. He just got out of the hospital where we’ve been living for two and a half months. I know how to change a g-tube and hook up an IV.”

Trust me – I got a lot of awkward hugs that night.

Today, I’m more comfortable in my new life and know how to share answers to “What are you up to these days?” in a way that makes people comfortable. Or, as comfortable as you can make them (sometimes it backfires – stories about a 19 year-old’s potty habits aren’t always a hit). Even with my new found confidence, I’m nervous about walking into a room full of people with memories of teenage Jesse Cappello and questions about middle-age Jesse Torrey.


I know some of my old friends are feeling the same way. Facing a room full of your childhood can be intimidating. It’s not just that you worry about how people will react to who you were in high school and who you are now, but it can get you thinking about who you thought you would be thirty years later – what your story would be. Things as shallow as what you would look like and what you would drive and things far deeper like what you would have accomplished and what you would have done to better yourself/others/the world.

Reunions have us all looking in the mirror, but maybe that’s a good thing. Everyone has a story. Perhaps it’s good for all of us to go back sometimes and evaluate who we were and who we’ve become, even if it means we need to swallow hard along the way.

So, I’m going to the reunion. I hope I come back with no regrets. Grateful for spending time with old friends and having relived some old memories. Maybe even have made some new ones.

Love, Jess

I have a hair appointment scheduled for next week. I may not have the best answers to “What’s going on with you these days?”, but at least I can cover the gray.










13 thoughts on “30 years later

  1. My gosh you were beautiful then, however the few times I have seen you on Block Island, I see an elegant, poised, confident woman who looks much too young to be attending a celebration of her thirty year graduation.
    Walk proudly into your reunion Jess, as you have triumphed over incredible adversity and fill every reader with hope, joy, smiles and tears. Most of us could only dream of what you have accomplished while facing extraordinary challenges. As far as I’m concerned, you are an inspiration beyond measure…a wife and mother filled with love and grace.


  2. You’re nervous? And you’re in all those pictures being posted. That’s because you were at all the parties, and were hanging out with all those popular people. Imagine what it was like to not be part of the “In Clique”. Let me help you…. Mondays were spent listening to all the details from the parties that you weren’t invited to. Thursdays and Fridays were spent listening to people plan the parties that you wouldn’t be invited to. Most of the rest of the week you were ignored by the popular people, unless you made the mistake of speaking to them or getting in their way, in which case you were transformed from invisible to loathsome, and treated like shit.

    No matter how you all remember your High School years, the “popular crowd” at SHS made life pretty shitty for others. Shitty enough that 30 years later, the mere mention of returning to see that crowd elicits the response, “No fucking way!” (and I’ve spoken to enough classmates to know).

    I speak for the un-invited, the shunned, and the ignored: Enjoy your reunion of the popular people. Remember that the vast majority of us were NOT the popular people…and we’re also the people who won’t be at the reunion… because we don’t want to see any of you again and dredge up all those shitty painful memories.


    • I am so sorry that my words hurt you in any way. All I try to do with this blog is to share my own experiences – my own feelings. My first reaction in reading your comment was to tell you that I wasn’t at all the parties. I was usually hanging out with my close circle of friends in a dark basement, hoping that the phone would ring and we would be included in whatever party was happening. BUT I was lucky that I had my close circle of friends. And, that although we might not have always felt like the cool kids, we had each other and were never treated poorly, never shunned, never ignored. I’m so sorry that you ever felt that way. I’m so sorry that my words stirred up shitty painful memories. It was certainly not my intention. I was far from perfect in high school and continue to make my share of mistakes 30 years later, but I have grown and matured. I’m guessing most people have. 30 years is a long time. I’m sorry you won’t be at the reunion and again, I am very sorry that my words hurt you.


      • I appreciate your perspective, and your words didn’t hurt, they just rang hollow, when your experience doesn’t even begin to reflect the experience of the perpetually uninvited. Imagine that basement empty for 4 years. Imagine that “close circle of friends” to be 2. Imagine being bold enough to ask if you could come to a party, and being laughed at. Imagine asking someone to do something, and being told “I can’t hang out with YOU “.

        It’s not like I’ve been grinding an axe for 30 years. I grew up, I moved on, and I became willing for forgive and forget the past. I learned people change, and I give them room to do that. “Us and Them” isn’t part of my life any more, I don’t really give a shit what people think, and I’m not conceited enough to put myself at the root of anyone else’s behavior. But then here we are, 30 years later, we have a Facebook page dedicated to the same group of people patting themselves on the back and reliving their glory days back when they could bully other people.

        I was initially interested….but watching the posts reminded me that I’d spend all night regretting that choice, and regardless how strong and brave I feel these days, I wasn’t prepared to spend a weekend dealing with people who think they are better than me.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve posted on this blog for 10 years. Initially to share my son’s progress fighting a horrible disease. Now it’s sharing my life – as a wife, middle-age housewife, art teacher, sometimes photographer, mother of a brilliant daughter, and mother of an amazing son who can’t speak or feed himself or walk without guidance. I’ve shared what it is like to live in a hospital for months. I’ve shared what it’s like to wake up to the smell of feces and spend hours cleaning up while my son walks around me with nothing on but a diaper. I’ve shared what it’s like to watch one of your children apply to top colleges as the other finds success making circles on a whiteboard. I am not perfect – I don’t go to the gym, I prefer Bravo to CNN, I don’t eat enough vegetables, I drink more than I should – BUT I am honest. This last post was about my insecurities about going to the reunion and I was being honest.

        I may have appeared happy and confident in high school. I wasn’t. I had learning disabilities and was painfully insecure about my 2.something GPA. I joked about being on JV sports as a senior, but I was humiliated. And those parties you weren’t invited to? They were often filled with bad choices for me. That’s the thing BillyJoeJimBob – you never really know what’s going on behind the scenes.

        And, today my life is complicated and I am often met with sad smiles and awkward hugs. People either have a lot of questions or avoid any mention of my son. Sometimes I have a hard time figuring out how to approach conversations and balancing fun times with my roll as a “special” mom.

        It’s not horrible – it’s just that the reunion has had me thinking about who I was in high school, who I am now and who I thought I would be. I’ve heard from other people in our class that they are feeling the same way. Thirty years later, we all have stories. There are ugly divorces and ill-behaved children and no children and financial difficulties and health issues. No one is without some complication. I’m hoping the reunion evens out the playing field in some way.

        I guess your words hit a nerve for me. Apparently I am determined to change your mind about who I am and the reunion. THAT is another thing leftover from Jesse Cappello 1987 – everyone needs to like me. Oh well – I’m guessing I didn’t change your mind about either, but please know that I never thought I was better than anyone. Not now – not in high school.

        Peace, Jess


    • I am looking forward to it. Still a little nervous, but more excited than anything. I do hope there is a big crowd and everyone feels welcome. I’m in charge of balloons and feel like I might mess it up somehow . . . at least it’s taking the focus on what to wear!


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