This past weekend was our city celebrated Homecoming. There was the requisite high school football game on Friday night. On Saturday people gathered for a parade and other activities. Sunday morning the local Kiwanis club served their pancake breakfast to the hungry masses. This year, however, there was an additional event. It was the 40 year reunion of the Avon Lake High School class of 1973.
Forty years since a group of people, many of whom had grown up together, walked onto the football field dressed in maroon and gold caps and gowns. Forty years since we sat anxiously awaiting the proclamation that we were free to go out and seek our fortunes. Forty years had flowed by since we hugged and slapped each other on the back. Forty years in which many of us had raised families and watched our children graduate from high school. Forty years that had passed by in a heartbeat.
We had a fairly good turnout for the event. Classmates came in from all over the world to attend. One good friend of mine had just arrived from Kuala Lumpur. Another from Atlanta, GA. Still others from New York, North Carolina and Chicago. I was surprised at how many of us still lived here and had never connected. Yeah, there are a few folks that I see from time to time at the local stores. But, out of all the people from our class, I can count on my fingers the number that I have seen and talked with. On that day in June of 1973 we all walked away from one another with our diplomas and our dreams.
The next day my wife and I told our daughter about the reunion. She responded that she probably would not attend any of hers. She said that she really didn’t have too many friends in her class, so why bother. I have to admit that I had shared a bit of apprehension about that myself. I don’t have too many fond memories of my years in high school. It was a time of transition and change. Awkward young teens growing and developing into young adults. New experiences and responsibilities strive with childhood security and comfort. There is a desire to fit in and be accepted. Yet, there is also, the need to explore individuality. For many this makes one’s image a matter of great importance. What to wear and who to hang out with are things obsessed about. Add to all of this raging hormones and a dash of teenage angst and the whole high school experience can become something altogether forgettable.
At the reunion, however, I found a group of people who had grown and matured. The lines that had defined us had long since dissolved. Where once there were jocks and freaks; greasers and bandies, now there were just people working day to day making a living the best that they can. I saw people that I had loved and cared about secretly, because they weren’t ‘cool.’ Now we were all free to embrace and affirm one another. Businesses, bills, children, responsibilities, and aging parents have worn the rough edges like waves battering granite cliffs. The years have produced lines of erosion etched into our faces. These things have leveled the playing field. We were, at last, equal. Equally worthy of honor and respect. Equal in our quest for immortality through the next generations that we have brought into existence. That night I saw classmates, peers, sisters and brothers.
The most difficult part of the evening was remembering those who could not be with us. The folks that planned the event set up a special table with the name tags of those who have passed on. I’m sure that everyone else felt as I did. We’re simply not old enough to be feeling our mortality like this. The really hard part was realizing that many of these people had passed through the veil in their youth. Seeing some of the name tags ripped open memories that I had thought were healed. I guess they will never completely heal. And, that’s a good thing. Our memories keep us in to connect us with the realities that we once lived. The guys in auto-shop and the math/science geeks are all part of what has made us who we are. Our memories continue to shape us even as our original experiences did. So, we raise our glasses in gladness and hope. To the class of ’73…God bless and Godspeed.
What are some of your memories of school?