I went to my 30th high school reunion this past weekend in El Paso, Texas. Upon arriving in the city, I made a beeline to Chico’s Tacos. It’s a no-frills, just-the-facts, taco eatery where your food is served on a flat-bottom-boat-like paper plate. It’s perfect for holding three hand-rolled corn tortilla beef taquitos, swimming in watery tomato sauce and topped with, what some have described, as shredded government cheese. For an extra 50 cents, you can enhance the flavor with double cheese. Add as much green spicy jalapeño sauce, at no extra cost.
People who are not from El Paso don’t get the allure of this local establishment and its tacos. I gave up trying to explain it a long time ago. You have to be from El Paso to understand why, Chico’s Tacos, is one of the reasons ex-locals keep coming back to this desert city.
Maybe it’s because it conjures up memories of those formative years when the simplest pleasures came from hanging out with friends and going out for late-night Chico’s after a weekend party, to go over the night’s events.
More than thirty years later, I still get the same pleasure from the tacos and that group of school friends. We’ve actually known each other since middle school. We have come and gone from each other’s lives throughout the years but always reunite and pick up right where we left off.
We’ve moved away, changed jobs, gotten married, had kids gotten divorced and remarried again. I hadn’t seen some of these friends, since our last reunion, five years ago. But that didn’t matter. The connection was still as strong.
We have been to each other’s quinceañeras, college graduations, birthday parties, baby showers, weddings, Vegas trips, and family funerals.
Having all met, when we were on the cusp of becoming adolescents, we not only witnessed each other’s transformation but took part in it as well. We learned to “do the Hustle” together at the Lady of the Light church hall and middle school cafeteria theme-dances. We slow-danced with each other, left-right-left-right, as the DJ played the Stylistics’ “You Make Me Feel Brand New.”
Our first girl-boy kisses and romantic relationships were with each other. Our first drinks and unfortunate hangovers happened in each other’s company.
|Some of the girls who’ve made my teen years and beyond, positively memorable|
We all simulated each other in the latest fashions and hairstyles. If I could find all the pictures that show us wearing super-cool permed hairdo’s, I’d burn them all. Sassoon, Gloria Vanderbilt and Ditto jeans with cowboy boots for the girls. Pants so tight, we’d need assistance in zipping up. The boys also wore tight jeans, polo shirts with collars flipped up, and custom-made cowboy boots. Some wore Wrangler jeans because, it was Texas, after all.
|Henderson Middle School Newspaper staffThat’s me in in the front, bottom left wearing the brown plaid shirt|
We played team sports together, skipped class together, attended rock concerts together and most of all, laughed really hard together. We dressed like Pat Benatar, and crossed the border into Juarez, Mexico, to the Electric Q nightclub, and danced ’til sunrise.
The things we laughed about then, and laugh about now, are the things that one had to be there for, from the beginning, to understand. Just like Chico’s Tacos.
As the years go by, we age and grey a little more in between our reunions. Yet, we always pick up where we left off, never missing a beat.
Our decades-long group friendship is not about competing for who has the best job, or who makes more money or who has the best marriage or has the most hair left. It’s about those simple years that brought us together so long ago through school district zoning.
This time around, I felt an unspoken acknowledgment amongst us all. That this friendship we have developed over the years, is one to be cherished more than ever. Here’s to Chico’s Tacos and The Thomas Jefferson, Silver Foxes, class of 1982.
|Thomas Jefferson High School Class of ’82 30th year reunion|