Saturday, October 16, 2010

Memories in Black & White

Today is one of those "through the looking glass" days that pops up in the day-to-day of most (if not all of) us from time to time. It is a day that shall be spent at least in part with one eye on the past while the other remains affixed upon the future.

This evening a fairly significant number of those of us who a quarter-century ago constituted the Class of '85 from the Wardlaw-Hartridge School shall come together in one of society's great crap shoot inventions: the reunion. To my knowledge my class has never had one of these before although I promise in advance of learning to the contrary that if it is disclosed tonight that they get together for these things on a regular basis but have not until this year decided to let me on it, no umbrage will be taken. All are forgiven.

I think the catchphrase of the evening for me will be "interesting". I am famously inept at most social gatherings, especially when I am not under the watchful eye of my better half. Margaret will not be in attendance tonight. We have been married a long time and if there is one thing I have learned over close to two decades together - in addition to making "Yes, dear" my default response to most questions - is that marriage is a negotiation. Margaret's class is having its 30th reunion on Thanksgiving weekend. If she came with me this evening, then quid pro quo I would have to attend hers with her next month. While the only two members of her class who I actually know - Lynne and Carolyn - are among the best people I know, I have little desire to become acquainted with the rest of Margaret's classmates. Absent Santa bringing a team of wild horses 'NTSG in mid-November as an early Xmas gift, there is no chance that I am enduring that evening. Thus, she tonight is permitted to exercise her "get out of reunion" free card.

I hope to see among the faces of the people I once knew when we were young and know hardly - if at all - now, the faces of happiness and contentment. In my mind's eye this group to which I once belonged and to which I reckon we all sort of forever belong was comprised of good individuals. The quarter-century further on up the road I have traveled since that Thursday evening in early June twenty-five years ago when we graduated has not been without its pitfalls and potholes to be sure. Nevertheless I have no complaints about the journey. I do something I enjoy and at which I possess more than a little bit of skill. I am married to a woman I love with all of my heart and because I stayed out of the way enough to avoid screwing up all the good she did when they were young, I am a father of two exceptionally talented, well-adjusted and simply terrific young adults. In the interest of full disclosure, I did little more than drive the car and make sure we had enough money to pay the bills but I shall not apologize for recognizing the rather low ceiling on my own talents.

While I hope that one and all are happy and that life has treated them well (a hope I presume they shall reciprocate towards me as I cannot recall leaving any old debts unpaid or any old slights unresolved) I suspect that most of - if not all of my former school chums - are experiencing at least some of what I am experiencing heading into this evening, which is a bit of a combination platter of emotions: happiness at seeing faces not seen (in some cases) in twenty-five years and anxiety at arriving at the realization at some point after arrival that small talk and awkward pauses may become the unintended theme of the evening. Whether they shall or not, I know not. I reckon that I shall find out soon enough.

This much I know - regardless of whether this evening is one buoyed by nostalgia or one merely awash in sentimentality (ask Pete Hamill to explain the difference), the work of my former classmate Karen Leach in setting this whole shindig up has been nothing short of extraordinary. Sixty days ago, I would have wagered that we could have held this event in a phone booth and have had no worries about sufficiency of elbow room. I hope she has a moment to smile and to breath in this evening all that her hard work has wrought. She has created the evening for all of us. It rests with each of us what we make of it.

Not all of us who walked across the front soccer field diplomas in hand twenty-five Junes ago will be present this evening. Some are absent by choice, some by distance and some by eternity. Among our numbers, which were small to start with only fifty-seven of us to start, we have lost three (at least three of whom I am aware). Randy Horn died when we were only a few years out of school. If memory serves me correctly we were still winding our way through college or perhaps a year or so past it when Randy died. Then, slightly more than thirteen years ago the greatest athlete whose handiwork I have ever witnessed in person and one of the nicest people I have ever known, Dwight Giles, passed away suddenly. In early February 2009, Stu Solomon the gentle giant of our class and a man whose heart's frailty eventually betrayed him, died. Of those three I will be thinking this evening - as I suspect at least most of us assembled shall. Without intending to, they serve as markers of time and as reminders of the miles passed between youth and middle age.

A reminder of the difference, physical and otherwise, between the person each of us was then and the person each of us is now. And of the space between, which may be something less than a quarter-century's trip but will likely remain something greater than an evening's.....

......even if it is one down memory lane. Drive safely. And slowly. Take time to enjoy the sights. For none of us knows whether we shall pass this way again. 2035 is a long, long way from here and now.

-AK

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