This post was inspired by Ollie’s “Dear Eddie” post. While it is not a complete answer and it is probably too late on a Sunday for me to be in glorious writing mode, I wanted to take a run at it. Perhaps others can chime in with their own tales as well?
There were 52 kids in my graduating class. Some of our teachers had either taught our parents or went to school with our parents. A teacher could still crack your ass back then and we were told if we got paddled at school we would get twice as much at home. Everyone thought that was an idle thread until it really happened to someone, we all behaved a bit better after that.
I’m telling you this so you can have a frame of reference. All things must be viewed from within a valid frame of reference. A twenty-something from a massive city school has no frame of reference for a school that small where every kid knew every other kid and our parents all knew each other.
Putting it in even more perspective, there was a brother and sister 2 miles up the road from my farm. His parents and my parents had been friends before they each got married and had us. Our mom’s discussed when to enroll us in Kindergarten so we would both be in the same class together. We had played together many days during those long forgotten moments before our very first day of school. We remained friends all the way through high school.
A few times, when we were thirty-something, some other kids whose parents were friends of our parents would arrange for a Saturday even bar trip after all meeting at one of our parents homes for an hour or three. This started happening after one of the dad’s was in hospice. Some of the “kids” these parents knew had kids of their own now so there was a bit of joy. We don’t have those gatherings anymore. They went on for something like 5 summers and once “the old folks” figured out what we were doing they were all for it. They were confused by it the first summer, catching on by the second summer and volunteering to go to bed early so they could come get us when the bar closed by the third summer, even offering to watch little ones.
Side story: This must be a trait kids of our area and era have. When I was twenty-something and away in college I had called my grandmother to ask if me, my brother and my cousin could crash there after our Christmas eve bar hopping then bring her out on Christmas morning. Mom though it was too big of a burden. Mom’s brother stopped for a visit and told her grandma had been cleaning the house for a week and was as excited as a little kid at getting to spend that much time with her grandchildren.
Time is the one gift you can give someone which cannot be purchased at any price.
We stopped doing the summer gatherings a long time ago. No real reason, we just did. We all still live within 2 hours of each other and we all still have family running the farms we grew up on, we just don’t get together anymore. We moved on.
Of all the people I knew in high school, there is only one I bother to keep in touch with. I see him whenever I’m in the state where he and his family are now, or whenever the comes home to visit his parents.
There was one guy we were both friends with during high school. Did a lot of pheasant hunting and beer drinking together during our misspent youth. I saw him a couple of times during our post college years, but have neither seen nor spoken to in the past two decades. The last time any of our crew communicated with him he kept saying how he bought some ground to set aside purely for pheasant hunting and was going to invite all his old high school hunting buddies out during pheasant season. It never happened. Last time I ever saw him was at his father’s funeral. He worked his way up to some VP or director type spot at a large Ag implement company and doesn’t keep in touch with those he knew in his youth. He moved on.
During my late twenties/early thirties I was dating this technical recruiting woman while working as a consultant myself (different companies). She had grown up in the deep blue collar region around Chicago. Not rural, but of a deep blue collar background, just “city blue collar.” I took her to a Phil Collins concert and had good seats on the main floor. The down side of having good seats on the main floor is it takes forever to get out of the concert once it is over. There were a couple of blue collar moms talking about their rug rats a row or so over from us. One was complaining that her little boy insisted on taking his own baths and didn’t wash his ears. “I asked him yesterday, what are you growing in there, cauliflower?” we both overheard, then looked at each other with a groaning look. We knew the expression, weren’t having kids, and, well, we both knew we had moved on right there and then. Those of the lighter collars around us had never heard the expression so they had curious expressions on their faces. We quickly found something to talk about and continued following the heard towards the door. Without meaning to, we had made a judgment.
Even now that I’m back home helping with harvest I could drive less than twenty minutes down these country roads to see close to half of the kids I went to school with. I don’t do it. Hell, some of them are still less than 4 miles away. We’ve all moved on, found other lives. So few showed up at the last high school reunion that last summer those who still care about such things staged an “all alums” gathering during the fair days in the tiny town our high school was in. Some people told me less than a dozen people showed despite the reunion was for any class year since the school opened. Adding insult to injury, close to 100 still live and work in the area. Some have even had their own kids graduate from the same high school, but neither parent no child showed.
We’ve all moved on. No matter how pleasant the memories of that time were, they don’t fit in with the narrative of our current lives. We choose to hang onto the edited happier versions rather than run into the older versions of a dumb and young selves only to find out many of them really did turn out to be assholes or risk the chance of running into the token few we hoped to never see again.
It’s not a particularly happy thing, but it allows us to hang onto those few happy memories we still have of such times.
There was a Peanuts cartoon I read as a child. Lucy and Linus were teaching a baby to wave bye bye. Lucy asked “Why do we always teach babies to wave good bye?” “Because for the rest of their lives people will be leaving them” responded Linus.