Thursday, July 27, 2017
High School Doesn't Go Away
At the recent Hiram Schools* reunion (an annual July event in nearby Welshfield, Ohio) our Master of Ceremonies, Gary Bott (a couple of classes earlier than mine--and a former Hiram Fire Chief), performed one of his annual rituals: checking to see which HHS classes had attendees this year. He started with 1935. A woman's hand went up.
1935. Hmmm. If she was seventeen in 1935, that makes her ... [pause for Danny's slow computational skills] ... ninety-nine years old. (Did I mishear? Was it 1935?) And there she sat, eating pot-luck with the rest of us, sharing stories, occasionally feeling bad about the jerks we'd been Back in the Day (maybe I'm just speaking for myself here: Not everyone is a jerk in high school; I was).
Our class (1962) had only a handful present (see pic below)--though nearly twenty of us had met the day before at the home of our classmate Ron Etling, who owns a great place in Hiram Township--nine wooded acres across Asbury Road from Camp Asbury (where our sixth graders at the middle school in Aurora, where I taught most of my career, used to go for a week each spring)--Ron, also a middle school teacher (science) who has both geothermal and solar at his house. Scientists!
Twenty doesn't sound like all that many, but there were only about forty of us to begin with, and we are 72-ish now ... get real!
Well, I wrote earlier about that reunion day (yes, I know that I repeat myself!), but today I was thinking about how high school lingers with us. The relationships, the expectations we have of one another.
Certainly, those years are key in our development--basically ages fourteen through seventeen (plus or minus)--years when we begin to think we know a lot (and that our parents and other adults manifestly do not)--that the adolescent world we're inhabiting (and creating) is just far different from (and superior to) whatever it had been before (hah!), that we don't need anyone, except one another, of course, our shared wisdom equaling, well, all of what humanity had theretofore accumulated.
It takes years--well, it took me years--to figure out what a dolt I was.
And I think now about what a moron I was not to consult my parents about more things (or to listen to them with one ear--or fewer), not to consult, say, Mr. Brunelle, our amazing high school English teacher (Latin, German, too), who lived only eleven miles away from where I was beginning my own career as an English teacher. Hell, I didn't need him: I mean, all of this--all of what I was doing--was different, right?
I should have picked his brain like an apple tree. But didn't. And so had to learn the Hard Way many of the things he could have spared me.
But it just amazes me how--fifty-five years after we graduated--I can see a familiar name from Back Then pop up on a Facebook "Like" or comment or a post, and I feel ... something. Something unique. Something I do not really feel for any other "friends" (except Joyce, of course!)--no matter how long I've known them.
And I believe I feel this way because we shared it all--the classes, the teachers, the madness, the excitement, the cruelty, kindness, love, error, cruelty (yes, I know I already said it once), success, failure, study halls, gym class, Y-Teen hot dog day, sock-hops, games, bus rides, sorry lunches (we had no cafeteria: bag-it or starve!), field trips, fights, applause, cruelty (yep, third time) ... and now ... memory.
The other day I had coffee with Ron (whose home and property we'd enjoyed for our 55th) because we hadn't talked much that day--needed to catch up. A swift hour-and-a-half ensued. And names I hadn't thought of--deeds I'd forgotten (sometimes happily so)--regrets and pleasures--all of it swirled around us there in the Aurora Starbucks, where Time himself simply sipped his latte and waited for us to finish.
*The Hiram Schools are gone. The high school consolidated with nearby Crestwood (in Mantua, Ohio) at the beginning of the 1964-65 school year; the building was razed a little later; the elementary grades hung around awhile, then merged, too, and now ... nothing but grass remains. Here's a picture of my younger brother and me at the site--just last year.