LAST AUTUMN, my Amazing-Missus and I attended her high school class reunion. I wrote a bit about it.
While at the reunion I was visiting with a lady who had been married to one of my schoolmates. As we visited I was struck with a spell of melancholy. For some reason I have no connections with anyone that I went to school with. It’s not that I didn’t have friends; maybe I’m just not a good cultivator, which is a little weird to me because a role I truly cherish is that of being a creative catalyst—one who brings creative people together in collaboration.
But then a pop on Facebook, the social media thing. Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you’ve been politically manipulated by it. A name I recognized was there on the FB, the name of a girl that I considered to be a friend in grade school, junior high and high school. Not a “girlfriend” though. Her sights were set much higher.
One thing lead to another and a few weeks ago, we met for lunch. Karla, Arlene and me. What a gift it was. She was able to tell me about many of our classmates. I felt reconnected somehow. And at the same time I realized that Heraclitus was right. You cannot step twice into the same stream.
Karla told us there was a group of Trojan alum having a meet-up at the Methodist church if we wanted to stop by. So we did. We walked into the church and followed the signs to the Fellowship Hall. We could see through the open doors the group gathered. “This isn’t them”, I thought. “This is the church’s senior adult group.” And then it dawned on me. All these people other than me have aged, and come to find out, many are gone.
I dug out my old yearbook, from my junior year 1968, and scanned the pictures of my classmates, pausing on some to recall a memory or two. Some of these, I realized, I had sat in class with year after year and I knew very little about them. Missed opportunities no doubt.
The tradition back then, when the yearbooks were handed out at the end of the school year was to hand your book to others for them to sign. I read the entries in my book through a much older lens. For the most part, we didn’t look to far ahead: “Hope you have a great summer!” Some entries were nostalgic: “Well another year is behind us…” Some prophetic: “Stay just the way you are and you’ll go far,” words I’ve never seen on one of those motivational posters.
We didn’t know it at the time but things were simpler and yet they weren’t. 1968 is notorius for riots, protests, and culture quaking moments. But without the WWW, 24-hour news outlets, a strange innocence prevailed; or at least that’s the way I remember it.
On the 50th anniversary of my senior year, I wonder about the Senior Class of 2019. Are they having a good summer? Are they aware of the crap-storm in Washington D.C.? Do they care? Have the active-shooter drills at their school become as common place as the atomic bomb drills did for us? Is there a thread or two of innocence left? Is there someone writing words of encouragement on the flyleaf of their yearbook?
If I could write a prelude of sorts in their yearbook, I might say something like this:
Make a new friend this year. Not one of those social media “friends”, but a real one, maybe one that is different from you: race-wise, sex-wise, faith-wise—you know, different. When you get together with your new friend, put away the phones and talk. Talk about the future, your fears, your faith.
Be creative. Make a contribution. Express gratitude. Do something that makes your palms sweaty. Pay attention—not just in class but to what is happening around you. Remember: “Everything changes and nothing remains still. You cannot step twice into the same stream.” — Heraclitus
Just a note: I attended school at Jenks Public Schools through my Junior year, but transferred and graduated from Will Rogers High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
P.S.: Thank you Karla Newman Taber for being a friend.