Anticipation Is The Spice Of Memories

Every year that I was in high school, five 10th-grade boys and five 10th-grade girls were chosen to be “workers” at the seniors’ Winter Formal. The group was eclectic, chosen from all walks of school life–sports, student council, cheerleading, etc. At an organizational meeting, the group was split into couples according to task. I was paired with Suzanne, and we were to work the punch bowl then move on to the coat-checking room, ticket-taking, etc. One point was clearly defined at the meeting, however. We were underclassmen and not there to “enjoy” the dance. That was the seniors’ privilege. We were there to work.

On the day of the dance, the ten of us arrived early to set up. We ordered pizza, decorated the cafeteria, flirted, and laughed the way 15- and 16-year-old kids do. Around 5 p.m., we headed home to dress in tuxedos and gowns that had been selected and paid for by the school. All the guys gathered at my house so our moms could snap pictures. When the new 10 friends arrived at the school, the mothers were still in tow, taking more pictures and teasing us all accordingly. We were young and innocent and, man, we looked great.

Dangling The Carrot

The dance began and the work ensued. We were distracted by the music and dancing, but reminded not to engage in the festivities. I recall gazing at the dance floor and identifying the wall flowers, the studs, the flirts, the general awkwardness of being at a high school dance and trying to make an impression for the gossip that would be released on Monday morning.

As my co-workers and I changed stations, snuck a piece of pizza, and downed a quick glass of punch when the chaperones weren’t looking, it became clear to me that we were having much more fun than the seniors. The guys were with their dates, unsure whether they should get too close or stay with the safe group of guys they knew well. The girls collectively went to the bathroom (women still do, which I never will understand) and giggled, but no one seemed to be cutting loose and just enjoying the moment.

Over the PA system, a chaperone introduced the workers as music played in the background, like a band introducing a wedding party. One at a time, we filed onto the floor and without any previous plan, we gathered in a group and began dancing. Laughing, happy and comfortable, we were getting away with the very thing we weren’t supposed to do. Soon the floor filled and we danced the rest of the evening. When the lights came up, we changed clothes and cleaned the place. As we were leaving, one girl’s mom suggested breakfast, so we all headed to a local pancake house from where we saw the sun come up.

For the next three years, I went to every formal and prom my school hosted, but (sorry, girls) I don’t recall having as much fun as I did that night in 10th grade. As time has passed, I realize why that was. Everything has more value when it doesn’t come easily, when it is denied or kept from you, and you have to find a way to it.

Consider The Facts

Think about it. As a kid, and even now as an adult, did you like Christmas Day or the weeks before Christmas when the anticipation of what lay ahead was in the air? I still experience a certain depression after the holidays, but oh, man, I used to love the rush of the first cool breezes in October. Everything that the summer had denied lay ahead: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, family, friends, great times, amazing food–all the affairs of the heart.

Jerry Seinfeld says he loves “going to the movies” much more than “being at the movies.” It’s all about denial and anticipation. When the race is run and the goal achieved, there is an absolute release of energy that people attempt to rekindle but never quite find.

When Humphrey Bogart completed the film Casablanca, and it was a huge success, the director and other actors tried several times to recreate that magic in other films. Bogart later wrote that he could feel the success and energy as the Casablanca scenes were being shot, and he knew the release of the film would be great. He also knew he might complete other successful projects, but the experience right then he would never have again. His anticipation of the success drove the spirit of the film, which is still a successful piece of American history today.

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