Twenty-nine years ago I performed in the musical Pippin on my high school stage. This past weekend, a number of the cast members of that show reunited in New York to see Pippin on Broadway. It was a wonderful reunion, and quite a profound experience, to gather with people that I performed with so many years ago. I was struck by the fact that it seemed not so long ago that I was dancing and singing with these friends, and now we were adults, remembering the things we did and felt and talked about when we were in our teens. How did we get from there to here? And what did we take with us along the way?
High school, and everything that comes with it, becomes a part of us, part of the fabric of who we are. But some experiences from high school seem to stay with us more than others. Here are two of my favorites. One, of course, involves dessert. More specifically, peanut butter cup sundaes.
During high school, I spent a significant amount of time perfecting the perfect peanut butter cup sundae, as my high school friends can attest. The best peanut butter cup sundae, unequivocally, can only be found at Friendly’s. I have tried to replicate it elsewhere, but it is simply not the same. When ordering this sundae at Friendly’s, one must order the Peanut Butter Cup Sundae, often confused with the Reese's Pieces Sundae, which is not the same thing. The Reese's Pieces Sundae has five scoops of ice cream (too much) as opposed to three in the Peanut Butter Cup Sundae (just right). In addition, Reese's Pieces are inferior to a whole peanut butter cup as a sundae garnish. This I know from experience. So again, order the Peanut Butter Cup Sundae. For your three ice cream flavors, do not choose vanilla, as listed in the menu, but choose two scoops of cookies and cream and one scoop of butter crunch. The butter crunch must go on the bottom, and must be ordered in precisely that way, or else the whole sundae falls apart. The cookies and cream flavor, when placed on the top, mixes perfectly with the peanut butter sauce, hot fudge, and whipped cream. The peanut butter sauce nicely plays off of the oreos in the cookies and cream ice cream, and the hot fudge provides a nice contrast to the peanut butter. By the time you get down to the butter crunch on the bottom, all of your toppings are gone, and the butter crunch serves to cleanse the palate with its simple flavor. After the butter crunch, you are ready for the slightly frozen peanut butter cup, which was placed on top of the sundae, but is best saved for last as the perfect finish.
My friends and I shared many happy times our local Friendly’s. Many high school memories were also created on the stage of our high school, which leads me to my next story. It was senior year, the year after we did Pippin. Our drama group was suddenly without a faculty advisor and director. The school musical had been canceled. We were upset, shocked, and panicked that there would be no show that year. It was, frankly, unthinkable. So what did we do? We pulled together. We did a show anyway.
We chose a musical. Held auditions. Met with the assistant principal and asked for a pittance of a budget so that we could get the rights to perform the show Godspell. A talented sophomore said she could direct. A senior doubled as an actor and musical director. The dancers among us served as choreographers. We adapted the show to accommodate a large cast to make sure everyone felt like they had a part. We came together every day on that high school stage to rehearse, just us kids. And we did it. We put on a full length musical that year, and the program listed the names of the production team, the stage crew, the lighting crew, and the actors, all of whom were between the ninth and twelfth grades.
Looking back on it now, I’m not sure how we did it. We were told that faculty and parents cried when they watched us perform. I didn’t quite understand that back then, but as an adult, I do now. We were fearless. We didn’t take no for an answer, and we used our collective passion to create something great. And every single one of us received more than just a bow at the end of the night.
Thanks LHS, for peanut butter cup sundaes, and for Godspell. You can never go back, but you can remember. And you can even take some things with you, like the knowledge that you can achieve something great against all odds. And the recipe for a great sundae.