Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Class of '66

                                                                  Senior Prom 1966

Yesterday I came across a Facebook "friend request."  Not being adept at navigating my way through Facebook, the request may have been sitting there for months.  Well, I clicked on the friend request and discovered that it was from a high school classmate who has been toiling to herd the remainder of the class of '66 on to our own special Facebook page.

So I clicked on the "confirm request" and was soon navigating my way through my old high school days.  Well, I could never have anticipated the impressions that the two hour visit to yesterday had on me.  

First of all, those people are so damn old!  Let me explain.  When I joined the military in the summer after my graduation I unwillingly severed the kind of continuity one enjoys when living in the same town in which I grew up.  Oh, I had received disparate news and notes through the pipeline of a few old friends.  Sometimes I caught a timely news item in the home town paper.  And I did attend the 20th reunion of the Class of '66.  But those people were still recognizable....perhaps a receding hairline here and there, perhaps a slight thickening of the waist, but still my dear recognizable classmates.

And, because I have not enjoyed the continuity of friendship over these many years, these ghosts from the past were starkly different beings than the ones who wrote in my yearbook.  Like those open-faced doll houses that a little girl will play with...little daddy and mommy figures all attending, my memories of my classmates came from propping open one of my yearbooks and gazing into youthful, fresh faced 17 year olds with the world just opening up to them.

And every single one of those sweet faces remain frozen in time, vibrant and alive.  And so yesterday I gaze into the faces of these senior citizens and, at first, simply see them as strangers.  And, far worse, like a punch drunk fighter, I begin to absorb the blows at those postings that refer to the deaths of these dear hearts who, until yesterday, still lived..who still held their place in my memory banks.

A dear girl who was my first pre-teen crush had died in an auto accident.  A lovely girl who shared singing the musical scales with me in choir brutally murdered.  Several who died in their 20's and 30's, leaving us to wonder why we were graced with long life while others were taken so early.

My god, it was heartbreaking!  In 1966 even the occasional auto accident, or one of our own dying in Vietnam seemed not to shake our sense of immortality!  I sat there yesterday and mourned the fact that I had not taken a moment in 1966 to tell those people how much a kindness meant to me, how a joyful moment made my high school life a bit easier.

Then I thought about what a wonderful thing indeed, if we could go back to 1966, taking all of the richness of our life experience...to enrich the lives we might have touched back then.  Having learned that having the nicest car, or the best clothes, or being most popular was no assurance for happiness..how much kinder might we all have been?  

And then I realized that all the light hearted comments, all the heart felt sentiments being posted on this Class of '66 reunion site was accomplishing that very thing...we were at last sharing the things that are most important to us.  We were, from the relative comfort of a computer keyboard, or with the occasional informal dinner reunion, at last communicating about who we are and what we care about.

And suddenly all those old faces became dear to me...every crows foot and every wrinkle, and every laugh line,  testament to the hard life challenges we've faced and defeated.  

So I can put away the yearbooks, pausing to say a prayer for those who have passed, and celebrate the lives of those of us who are left, laugh lines and wrinkles and all.

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