Sharing past lives

I’m sitting here on a quiet Sunday morning, sipping my coffee and looking at the faces of old people.

If those people read that, they’d probably line up to throw things at me.

They’d be right, of course, because I’m one of them. These are the faces of the kids I graduated from high school with, faces caught at an informal class gathering and posted on Facebook. It’s not convenient for me to attend those gatherings, so I have to become an online voyeur to get glimpses of people I haven’t seen in 47 years.friends

I’m very relieved to see that they’re all wearing name-tags. It makes me feel less embarrassed to write, under the photos, “WHO is that?”  Not under all the photos, though. Some people don’t seem to have changed at all, especially if I knew them well in those long-ago years.

They are now grandpas and grandmas, and of official retirement age. Some have been blessed financially, others haven’t. Some stayed thin, some got thin, some–like me–have put on a few pounds. They have gray hair, or no hair,  or hair from a bottle. Short guys got tall, and many truly aged well, like fine wine. A few of the “popular” ones are nowhere to be seen, while a few of those who were more anonymous in school are now front and center in the social mingling.

But the best part, from what I can tell, is that none of that matters.  What they all have in common now are smiles–and memories. Kids who probably never spoke to each other in high school because our class was just too large to know everyone, now meet for monthly dinners, or come to these summer “parties in the park” in the old hometown. Time has become the great leveler, and if there were “cliques” back then, the lines between them have been erased.

What they enjoy most now, I think, is having roots in common. When you’re a kid, those roots don’t seem very important because, at that point, they’re not very deep. But after you’ve gone on to college, worked in the business world, raised kids, moved to new neighborhoods, new towns, new states, you suddenly realize that all these new people you’ve met don’t know you at the root level. They know who you’ve become, but they know nothing of the raw material that built you.

New friends you’ve made aren’t apt to know the names of your brothers and sisters, or what your father did for a living. They don’t appreciate that your life’s work fulfilled a budding high school talent, or that you blossomed in a totally unexpected area. They didn’t see you as a youngster, struggling to know yourself and to emerge from that cocoon called adolescence.

They don’t know you had a crush on Bruce in the first grade, that your best friends were Kathryn and Charlene, or that your Girl Scout troop took a trip across Lake Michigan on the Milwaukee Clipper. They weren’t in the high school lunch line with you when you spilled tomato soup down the front of your uniform. They can’t remember that you were horse crazy and rode every chance you got, or that you wrote fanciful letters to a friend on vacation when she really wanted gossipy news. New friends aren’t in your old diaries, and you aren’t in their old memories.

So, I sit here and look at those old faces of the people who knew-me-when, knowing that if I were there with them, my face would fit right in.

There’s only one thing left to say. Post more photos, please.


About Monica Sawyn

I'm a retired newspaper reporter/columnist, and although I still freelance, I miss the weekly column I used to write. I still "see columns" in everyday life and need a place to put them after they're written--thus, this blog. I'm Catholic, have been a Benedictine oblate since 1977, and live with my husband and our beagle in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. When I'm not writing, I'm probably reading, sewing, taking photos or walking the dog.
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2 Responses to Sharing past lives

  1. blb1 says:

    I never got to a class reunion and when I was back there not even my family would baby sit or lend me car and money for the meal. Those from my class that knew I was in town never offered a ride either. You’d think I was the most hated person wouldn’t you?

    Never searched for any of them on FB either as I spend little time there.

    • Monica Sawyn says:

      Those are some unpleasant memories of both classmates and family. What a shame. It’s amazing how insensitive people can be. Luckily you probably have other, happy memories.

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