I have spoken of this before but, please, indulge me once again.
I had the great fortune of being born and raised in a small community nestled against the Sierra Nevada mountains. There were parts of the town psyche that were ugly. Our town was divided, physically, by race. But there were only two elementary (K-6) schools, one on each side of town that were fully integrated. There was one junior high school (7th and 8th grades) and one high school.
At school we lived together. We ate together. We cried and laughed and ran and sat together. We learned together. We grew up together.
And then we graduated from high school and things changed. We changed. Some went to work, some went to college, some seemed to disappear.
Several months ago, a small group from that class got together to see if they could bring the remainder of their classmates together for one night. To reunite us at the 50th anniversary of our graduation. With a lot of work and a lot of luck 36 of us (plus spouses and significant others and one teacher—Bless you Carol Jones) made it to the same place at the same time.
And it was magical.
It started on a Friday. A casual first evening was planned in the garden area of the motel that housed those from out of town.
With name tags hanging from lanyards we reacquainted ourselves to ourselves. Some had remained close physically- living in the same general area and staying in touch. Some had not been back to the Central Valley (or at least our little part of it) for the full 50 years. Some were easy to recognize. But glancing at the name tag was not considered a social faux pas. It was very often necessary.
Seems our memory skills had slid since the last time we had seen each other.
Friday evening lasted a long time. Stories flowed like water and laughter floated and swirled around each of us.
We complained that our children were so old. Many extolled the virtues of their perfect grandchildren. (duh!) Old careers were explained. Retirement showed many an entirely new life.
And we reveled in the thought that no matter where we had gone to, no matter what we had done, we would always be bound to each other because of a small town nestled up against the Sierra Nevada mountains.
We gathered again on Saturday night for a dinner. We dressed a little better than we had the night before. We greeted and hugged those who we missed the night before. We began to explore (politely, of course) the course of the lives of those we at our tables. Stories flowed again.
On a screen in the corner a continuous slide show ran. Our elementary class pictures paused for a few seconds and someone would say, ” There’s ——–!” or “There I am!”. Then pictures from the yearbooks of each of our high school years. We looked so young.
And the memories poured from us like small streams of consciousness. James Joyce could have written the script for this particular night. One memory would be interrupted by another and another. They created a tapestry of our early lives.
We talked of our struggles, our failures, our successes and our cares. The ubiquitous cell phone was passed with pictures of homes, children, grandchildren, pets and absent spouses.
We were different people for those young 17-18-19 year olds. We were exactly the same, as well.
I was awed by the sharing and the love that filled that room. It is a group that will always include me.
And I thank Larry J. Clark for setting up the shot that will stay in my heart forever.