Monday, August 15, 2011

High School, Remembered

I'm feeling a blast from the past tonight. I spent some time this past weekend with about ten of my classmates from my graduating class. We were the class of '96 at Waterford High. And, it ended up being true, "We never had it all together, but together we had it all." I remember leading the committee on the class motto and not knowing if that really fit when we chose it. We were a competitive, female-heavy, oddball kind of class, and I knew some mushy quote just wasn't going to work. When this quote came up, I made peace with it, thinking, "Well, we do have all kinds in this class, we've got it all." And, fifteen years later, it's still true.

It was great to see some of those faces I used to see everyday. There were a ton of memories, and I was surprised by how much of it I had forgotten. My favorites were from Mr. Nowell's chemistry lab. He was an older teacher who truly liked us and had a penchant for saying hilarious things like "Baker, are you masticating latex derivatives?" (chewing gum) and "Stollar, quit jerking me around!"

Gosh, those were long days. When you're a teenager, the hours in class drag on forever. It seems you'll never grow up, you'll never get to call the shots. You'll forever be a subpar citizen, with chores and curfews and pimples.

But you do grow up. Those days help to prepare you for the other trials and tribulations you might face. And, for me, they weren't all bad. There were "big sisters" in volleyball who decorated my locker on big game days, a crew of boy friends who taught me the fine art of slingshot (that's us, above, showing a little leg after graduation), and parents who supported me in all kinds of ways.

So the class reunion was a good thing. And maybe it got me in the right frame of mind for the sad news I got today. A dear cousin of mine was killed in an occupational accident. He was the epitome of a good guy, and my memories of him during our high school days abound.

They say only the good die young, and if that's the case, it's a wonder he made it this far. I'm telling you, this was one of the truly phenomenal good-time guys. He had a heart of gold and a smile that made you believe he'd just gotten away with the wildest stunt, which was often true.

I don't think I can find a picture of him from those days, the way I remember him best. I just spent nearly an hour, to no avail, looking for a photo from the night we had a '70s dance at the school, where one of my best memories of him took place. That was a good night for me and my cousin-friend. He paid me a compliment that night that made a big difference in my life. It was a nod of confidence in the best way, and I can still appreciate the "aha!" moment it created for me, the way it clicked it my head that I was worthy and that I did have something to offer.

And those moments, at the age I was then, were and still are absolutely priceless. So, rest in peace, my friend. You'll always be among my memories and those of others from the worst of days, the best of days, that were "high school."

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