(The title is not a misprint. Though my 50th high school class reunion is just a week away, I found these thoughts on an old computer–written right after our last major reunion. They are still true.)
The 40th Class Reunion of North Augusta High School, Class of 1965, was a magical weekend of Thanksgiving, pure nostalgia, an occasion of warm and delicious memories. The girls of forty years ago are even more beautiful now as mature women. The boys, many of whom went to Viet Nam, have, over the years, become men. Some of our class members are no longer with us, having died too young. Others have coped with the death or mental illness of children or the loss of a spouse. We have all lost our innocence.
In North Augusta, South Carolina, in the mid-1960’s, though we were mostly middle-class, we were privileged to live in a virtual childhood wonderland, a town of good churches, peewee football and baseball, peach trees with plenty of ripe fruit, movies that would have all been rated G, parents who loved us, streets that were safe. We were clueless, at that time, about the extent of our cultural racism. Now, we know better.
Even our music was innocent. “Young Love” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” were typical of the era. We studied Julius Caesar and Geometry. We read Gone with the Wind and The Old Man and the Sea. Our parents were people of faith and took us to church on Sundays and Wednesdays. We were taught to respect people who believed differently than we did. We might not have understood the complexities of our world, but we were capable of learning. We were taught to be open, tolerant, and charitable. “Moderate” was a good word. “Fanatic” was not.
We knew each other in a way that you can’t know someone you met in a bar two hours ago. We grew up together, and we sat by each other in classes, and chased each other on the schoolyard. We played sports together and we knew who cheated and who played fair. When you know each other from childhood, you know who is decent and good and kind and honest. You also know who was deceitful and malicious. Thank God there were only a few of those.
As an adult, I am now conscious that some of my classmates were marginalized for a variety of reasons. Also, I now know that just because you lived in a nice house didn’t mean you weren’t abused or depressed. As self-absorbed teenagers, we were utterly unaware of some of the hurts and crises of some of the boys and girls who sat in the desks next to ours.
Time moves on. We grow. I loved being seventeen. Even more, I love being an adult.