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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Big 40th Reunion

Saturday will be my 40th Class Reunion. The event brings back many fond memories of friends, activities, and antics that I shared with my classmates. High school was like a big old ice cream cone to me: it was a cool, smooth treat that brought a smile to my face and left a lingering good taste in my mouth. Sure, going to high school presented some problems, but I even cherish those difficulties as essential learning experiences. Our class numbered around 90 members, and, by graduation, most of us knew each other pretty well. I can't remember a time when something interesting wasn't going on, even in our little town. We matured quite a bit together, probably not enough, but good fun and comradeship was the order of each day. Then, the party ended as suddenly as it had begun-- people went away to college, left town for employment, got married, and served in the military. In other words, everybody started walking different paths instead of collectively walking the halls of Valley High School. No longer did we have a guaranteed congregation of friends in our daily lives. My circle of good friends shrunk, literally, overnight. By the end of the summer after graduation, most of the class became ghosts of my past. Reality bit pretty hard in the fall of 1969 when I entered college. I turned the page to this new chapter of life with considerable regret. Seeing my classmates again is both sweet and bitter. Our class has lost a few people since graduation, and they will be sorely missed. But, the majority is still alive, and I hope to find them in relatively good health and happy. Over time, I have missed their friendship, and we will be celebrating a milestone at year forty. I usually am a little discouraged that many choose not to attend, but I'm sure they have good reasons for their absence. I'm not very good at "catching up" activities at class reunions. During those conversations with my old classmates, I look them in the eye and see them once again as high school seniors. Then, I lose my train of inquiry as I remember things we did together in high school, making the present conversation something basically unheard that I know I will not remember anyway. After all, my short-term memory is not nearly as good as it used to be. "How have you been, Dave?" "Oh, I'm just fine, Frank. Just me and the wife now. All the kids are grown up. We're living in Georgia." "Oh, Georgia huh? What part of the state?" MIND DRIFT: "Hey, Sue! Dave just put a tack in the seat of Mr. National Honor Society when he put his problem on the board. Oh wow, here he comes back to his seat. Owwl! Ha, ha. Look at him grab his ass!" "Sorry, Dave. Where did you say you lived?" Also, class reunion conversations cause my "could haves" to reflect from my classmates' eyes. The "could haves" include the close game we lost, the girl I didn't date, the activity I messed up, the people I didn't thank, the twist of fate I ignored. And suddenly, proms and drafts and girls and bands and sports scholarships and goals and beers and kisses and injuries start rolling through my mind on an old, endless roll of high school replays. Many images with new added embellishments and old emotions mix together in this roller coaster ride of memories long ago. Then, the equality of once all being just "students" is shattered as everyone clamors to find out who is now a success and who is now a loser. To that revelation add the ironies-- affluent nerds and preacher outlaws and all-American rejects and beauty queen frumps-- and comments like "My gosh!" and "I would never have believed it!" begin to cloud the room. Salary judgments, physical judgments, and availability judgments make their customary rounds. Out come the divorces, the set-backs, the ailments- and they all must be weighed. And, finally, the concept of "we're going to put this class back together" for one evening seems pretty fruitless. In fact, putting together something already fragmented is a noble idea, but nearly, if not impossible. At best, the reunion is a commemoration of "what used to be" and an evaluation of "what we had hoped to be." A new memory together is made until the next reunion occurs. The photographer takes the mandatory class photo to preserve the memory of those who may pass away before another reunion and to verify that the person in the photo really did attend. The DJ plays the oldies which evoke personal memories of a class's past that seldom have meaning for present husbands and wives and some couples dance tenuously hoping neither to be labeled a "show off" or to appear too physically impaired. My class's rallying call was "Sin, sex, beer and wine. We're the class of '69." At the 40th reunion, I think we should amend the motto to "Wishful thinking, once a month, water and get your backs aligned. We're the old farts of 2009." Reality brings me to the point of this entry. The best part of the reunion for me is my dumb little fantasy of time travel. For one evening every five years, my soul reverts to eighteen. I relive it knowing that going back is possible in only one place- my mind. The familiar eyes I contact will see someone I used to be, and in that suspension of aging and time, my eyes will allow me to return the favor. I loved high school even if all that is left of the experience today is a few drips in the shell of an empty cone. Eighteen Performed by Alice Cooper (Bruce, Cooper, Dunaway, Smith, Buxton) Lines form on my face and hands Lines form from the ups and downs I'm in the middle without any plans I'm a boy and I'm a man I'm eighteen and I don't know what I want Eighteen I just don't know what I want Eighteen I gotta get away I gotta get out of this place I'll go runnin' in outer space Oh yeah I got a baby's brain and an old man's heart Took eighteen years to get this far Don't always know what I'm talkin' about Feels like I'm livin in the middle of doubt Cause I'm Eighteen I get confused every day Eighteen I just don't know what to say Eighteen I gotta get away Lines form on my face and my hands Lines form on the left and right I'm in the middle the middle of life I'm a boy and I'm a man I'm eighteen and I LIKE IT Yes I like it Oh I like it Love it Like it Love it Eighteen! Eighteen! Eighteen! Eighteen and I LIKE IT
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