Bruce Springsteen, "Lonesome Day"
|25 years later. . .From left to right Jeff O'Conner, Tyrone Walker, Pamela Foard Jansen, Tracy Truitt Mastrapa, Anita Hodder Jimenez, and me!|
This weekend was wonderful. I saw a total of 9 people from the hundred that graduated with me in 1992 and it was wonderful.
I guess most people would consider a reunion with those numbers a bust but I don't. It was a blessing and I'm glad I came.
On Friday night I arrived at the FLA gymnasium with it's fancy wood floors--the green ones I remember from our time there long gone, along with Coach Fulbright's offices that used to hang high over the entrance to the gym (Now it's his name that hangs over the entrance). I looked at the yearbooks on our forlorn, unadorned table, looked at the picture of our class, of us when we were young and the future still lay ahead. And then one of my oldest friends in the world, Paul Wood showed up and we had the best time. We laughed and talked through the whole program and then after as well; ended up closing the place down. We were the last to leave and then talked in the parking lot where I used to park my car alongside the other members of The Group twenty-five years ago.
We saw some other people that night--none of our classmates--but people that brought back warm memories nonetheless. We talked for awhile with Tom and Jeanie Brevig, our old Pathfinder leaders at Central church in the days before high school, and I gained a whole new appreciation for their joyful, loving, Christ-like hearts. We talked for a bit with the mother of one of our classmates--who insisted we call her Loretha now. It felt a bit weird--I was so used to Mrs. Collins from my childhood, but she's not Mrs. Collins anymore and I'm not a kid anymore. She was completely charming and I loved chatting with her. And we talked to Melissa Keller, the alumni and development director at Forest Lake Academy, who also happened to be one of my wife's good friends in college from the days when. . .well, when I was still a senior at FLA. A senior who had no idea that in five short years he'd be getting ready to marry an amazing woman from the class of '89.
On Sabbath our numbers tripled. Pamela, Anita, and Jeff O'Conner showed up. A full half of our old junior year clique! Ty joined us later and Tracy popped in just in time for the official class picture. The program was nice. The message from Benji Leach was good, but the part that stood out for me the most was the In Memorium segment--two names for our class of 92. Becky Hall and Frank Modeste, and I felt a real sadness, a true loss. I hadn't been close with either one of them, but in that moment I felt their loss keenly. They were too young. They never had a chance to pass on going to even one of our honor year alumni reunions. And I never had a chance to know them.
|The room where Paul Viar taught me how to study. The man darn near killed me in sophomore biology and I am forever grateful. I remember A&P class with Chandra Maloney our senior year in this room too.|
After the program, Ty, Jeff, and I stayed for a tour of the campus with our former teachers Mr. and Mrs. Johnson. And it was nice, but it was then I realized I really wasn't here for the building or even the teachers (as good as they were). I was here to see my old classmates. So we cut the tour short and headed over to Sweet Tomatoes to meet up with Pam and Anita and their husbands and children for lunch.
We were there for four hours. We laughed, shared stories, relived memories, brought each other up to date. These were friends I'd spent four years with--studying at Anita's house on a Sunday afternoon, talking for hours with Pam on the phone, hanging out with Jeff at Geri's house on the regular, with our cars parked in a neat row on her front lawn. And these were people that I'd only known in passing--Ty was the tall guy that was friends with J in the dorm. Yet 25 years later talking to them, to their spouses, and their children I felt I got to know them all in ways I never had when we shared classrooms and teachers. I saw in the them the familiar struggle we call life--raising kids, caring for aging parents, dealing with tragedy, with endings and new beginnings. I was reminded that we are all in this together, doing the best we can. It was good. And something you just can't get from a status update or vacation pics on Facebook. I used to think I knew everything I needed to know about my class of 92. It was all on Facebook right? But this weekend taught me that there some things you can only learn, a connection you can only gain when you sit down with someone and talk, face to face.
|Pamela was one of my first friends at Forest Lake; we met when we were both freshman. I remember being so struck by her kind spirit and I found that hasn't changed in more than 25 years.|
Today, I met up with Heather and Jennifer at the Crepevine and again, it was so nice to simply take some time together. We couldn't have been more different--me, the left-leaning Obama supporter appalled by what's going on the White House these days; Heather and Jennifer, rejoicing that the Age of Obama has at last drawn to a close, eager to see what the new sheriff in town will set right. And yet we couldn't have been more the same--we have struggles and sacrifices, love and sorrow. We have friendship. That we have in common and it was more than enough to make two hours feel like not enough. It was time well spent.
You know our class never really could get it together. We never won much of anything (except for Anything Goes our senior year--you would have thought it was the Olympics the way we celebrated). We were terrible joiners. We took a kind of perverse pride in our dysfunctional status. It showed in our "sacred cow" class flag, with a mutated Panther looking far more bovine than feline. The flag was so unusual and I guess so controversial that it was eventually replaced by a more conventional one that hangs in the gym today. That's pretty much the class of 92 for you.
If there was ever a class less stereotypical of seniors, it was the class of 92. Those who came before us were the epitome of 80's cool (I still can't get over that class of '89. When I was a freshman--those men and women--you couldn't think of them as kids--were so cool. I admit I still feel a little proud that I married one of their number, even if she went to SVA instead of FLA). We were the first true class of the 90's. Nirvana to their stadium rock. They had golden locks and burnished skin, the bodies of Greek gods and goddesses, wowing the crowds. We were scruffy, with stringy hair, wearing a ratty sweater, hunched over a beat up guitar, making a noise like no-one ever heard.
I never, ever got the sense we hated each other. There were no fights that I knew of. No enemies or frenemies (well, okay there were--but they were all within circles, not between circles as I recall). We were just always kind of disconnected. We had our little Groups, and we weren't against anyone else--we just didn't connect much outside of our circles. It's why I didn't show up for the 20th. It didn't seem necessary, I guess. And maybe it wasn't, but what I found over this alumni weekend, is that it was absolutely worthwhile.
You see we weren't so bad at everything. In looking through my journals from our senior year, I was reminded that we put on one of the best Senior claas plays anyone had ever seen. I'd forgotten how good we were at that. We had an outstanding class trip to Chicago, Tennessee, and Atlanta. And there was Senior Survival--one of the coldest on record. It was one of those rare times when I feel like as a class, the walls came down a little bit. The cold forced it, all that hugging and snuggling that the sponsors simply had to let pass. It was just too damn cold! But that's when I became friends with Poupa Marashi (she went by Jenny back in those days). That's when the misfit band of fellows that didn't really "fit" anywhere came together to form the Wild Turkeys (all hail the god of smoke!)--those guys, many of whom I'd never really spent much time with until then became my brothers, and to me, they represented our entire class in microcosm. A bunch of misfits, thrown together, somehow making it work. And then there was graduation. Maybe I'm biased, but I remember our graduation as pretty special (even if the all night "party" after wasn't--with the exception of when Rey and companny ripped into "Enter Sandman" for about thirty seconds before the sponsors shut them down).
At our graduation, we decided every class officer would have a chance to speak (I'm sure the audience wished we hadn't). We all did well, and Mark Reams, in the way that only that wild man could, set a standard for speeches from the president. It doesn't surprise me at all that he found himself called to gospel ministry. That passion, that wild heart of his could have only found a Home in one place, in one Person. I spoke early in the lineup, sharing the office of class historian with Ly Nguyen. And what I said then, I will say again now:
As a historian, it's my job to look back, to remind our class of our past, of it's weight, it's value. There are three things from the past that we must always carry with us. Our friends, our families, and our God. The latter two we can carry, each on our own. But the first we can only carry together. You remember the song that was all over the radio our senior year. "We're one, but we're not the same. We get to carry each other." We get to. We don't have to. Nobody is making us. But it's a privilege offered, and one worth taking, I think. We are busy, we have lives, and kids and work and our own circles, like we always did. Some of us have stayed in touch, fewer of us have stayed close. But I gotta tell you there is something to be said for reconnecting with old friends, with getting to know classmates we barely knew existed before. It's worth noting that some of the people I now count good friends, I spent little time with during our four years at FLA. Poupa, Paul, Heather are just three that come to mind.
I'm ready to put down the story of our dysfunctional tribe. I'm ready to write a new story. By the grace of God, I hope in five years we'll still only be down two, and that many of you will choose to come out, reconnect with old friends and connect with new ones. And I hope that beyond the 30th and others that will follow, I will see the class of 1992 finally one, when the class is truly and fully whole, all fractures lovingly repaired, and we have all the time in the world.
I love you guys,
with each other
But we're not the same
We get to
carry each other
carry each other
One. . .life