Sunday, July 18, 2010

Monday Morning Rant 156

Did you miss me? I went up to Iowa to be with fourteen of my closest friends for the 60th anniversary of graduating from high school. Half of my classmates managed to survive to an equal age of 78 which I consider a remarkable achievement. The gender was an even split and a great time was had by all.

We enjoyed four meals together, toured various venues, and even worked in an opportunity to visit our former homes and haunts around town. We also took the time to visit and reminisce about the adolescent years when we were constant companions. Although a few are local they assembled from far away places: Las Vegas, Phoenix, Austin, TX, the Ozarks (both MO and AR), Washington, D.C., Alabama and neighboring towns in Iowa. Only one member (from Florida) didn’t show and many brought spouses or other family members. Granny didn’t make the trip because of caring for the critters and the growing things.

With WWII just ended before we started our mutual adventure in 7th grade, just about everyone was filled with thanksgiving for the end of hostilities and the opportunity to return to a “normal” life. Thus, we were presented with a general national attitude of gratitude and relief to pursue our studies and other activities. Because nearly all our faculty had been touched by the war, as a participant or as a near relative, they had acquired a re-appreciation of the importance of a foundational education. At their insistence, we also managed to see the necessity as well and accomplished it within our own range of ability. After graduation, nearly every male member served in the military and several were “lifers.”

On the nine-hour drive home I spent some time reflecting on why these gatherings are always such a success. Our former home-town is almost unrecognizable due to improvements, alteration of culture, wear and tear, and rampaging growth, each more apparent with each succeeding return visit. Obviously in sixty years there are going to be some serious changes and our little town has apparently gone through them all. What have not changed, despite failing memories, are those relationships which we formed during our high school years.

In our lives since graduation, some have gone on to college, others straight to careers, and all have become dedicated to chasing the American Dream. We have joined and formed associations with many different groups, organizations, small social groups, clubs, churches, lodges, neighborhood “klatches”, and formed our own individual family circles. Each of these has proven important to us in their own right but manifestly different from our mutual attraction as being part of the WLHS Class of ’50. For those of us who are part of that group; there is no other which takes its place.

For many, the family group is all important as it should be. Part of graduation is assuming the responsibilities and the joys of adulthood. For obvious reasons, the organizational structure of one’s faith draws regular exposure to others of like bent and for good reasons. We could go on and single out the Legion, the bridge club, academic organizations, the quilting society, the literary club, etc., etc., etc.,… But—and this is a big, “but”—none of them is quite the same as the reunion. The others are all enjoyable, informative, supportive, and help to round out our lives socially. So why then, does everyone go to extraordinary lengths to be with those who shared those school days?

Unlike college with its huge throngs of robed graduates tossing mortar boards, most high schools—and ours in particular—are much smaller and consequently more intimate. We actually “know” each other. We were, at the time, heavily invested in each member and continue to be. We were well known by our teachers and the administration. Even in non-academic efforts it was necessary for each person to participate for extracurricular activities to be a success. Collectively, we provided a real source of entertainment for our town’s people with the school’s influence on band, vocal music, drama, athletics; all became a requirement for near universal participation.

Aside from the encouraged involvement we shared what some believe to be the most important of the formative years—adolescence. Between twelve and eighteen, we mutually exerted an influence upon each other and created those activities which most folks are reluctant to ever abandon. Yes, we have a certain memory from our earliest school years but nothing to compare with those recollections which we accumulate in our teens. During that critical time we will prepare to become what we aspire to be but not be saddled with the full responsibilities of adulthood. We gather together and soon find ourselves recalling those precious anecdotes so common to the adolescent life.

For that brief interval, we can dispense with concerns of stiff joints, balding heads, life threatening diseases, irregular breathing and heart rate, which keep our local doctors so busy. Instead we can happily recall the pranks, the thwarted plans, and the failed wooing, and reveal things to each other which we would have never dared to at the time, from the safety of our dotage. We forgive old hurts, offer sympathy and a helping hand, fully understand problems with kids, and gain answers to questions long unasked. Teens are famous for carelessly kept secrets and we also revert without shame. Thankfully, in many cases, we are evaluated by what we were and not what we have become.

So, we rejoice in this golden opportunity so unlike any other to return to those halcyon days of constant programmed activity mixed with a healthy dose of often mis-spent leisure to just be teens again. Only those who carry the credentials of WLHS Class of ’50 can possibly relate to who and what we were and have become. The only exception is our beloved principal who continues to attend our reunions. We couldn’t have been all that bad or he would surely have dropped out by now. We are all in agreement that we pray he and his wife never ignore us.

How about you? Do you make an effort to attend your reunion? Your class mates have gone to a great deal of trouble to create a terrific experience for you. Don’t go because of them however; go because you will have a wonderful experience and learn things you have always wanted know. Better yet, you may enlighten someone else and satisfy their curiosity. Go and try it and I promise more sincere belly laughs than you have experienced for a while. It will be well worth the occasional tear you might shed.

And finally,

Granny reports that the temperatures have stayed in the nineties in my absence. I also noted that the grass has grown exceptionally well in my absence. On balance, that will certainly simplify my planning for activity in the week to come.

Please accept my apologies to you for a short “Rant.” We’ll get around to commenting on the political zoo as the week goes on. For now let’s take a break.

In His abiding love,

Cecil Moon

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