“Can you imagine us years from today sharing a park bench quietly? How terribly strange to be seventy.”
– Old Friends, Paul Simon
Old Friends, that was our class reunion theme, inspired by the song written by Paul Simon that clearly states our awareness of time, of friendship. Even at the ripe old age of seventeen and eighteen we had the foresight to choose that lyric to be printed in our yearbook. "As friends together watch their childhood fly" sings Sir Elton John, and so we did.
We didn't have a high school in our one-horse town, so they built on for us. We walked through those new doors in the fall of 1969, following the summer of Woodstock and Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon. A magical time indeed. We entered into HHS wide eyed 9th and 10th grade students, in transition in so many ways. We went from a strict school dress code of knee socks and loafers to T-shirts and blue jeans. We were introduced to sit-ins, walk-outs and how to find our voice. The soundtrack of our youth was Elton John, Cat Stevens, the Moody Blues and Bob Dylan. A time when the rules changed or we changed them. We found freedom and power in voice; speaking our truth. A time of unrest, but also innocence of youth. Our friendships somehow survived the ups and downs of navigating the journey yet to come.
After fifty years, most of us gathered together once more for a combined class reunion; class of '72 and '73. Not just for a few hours, but a two-day event. People began arriving at the high school entrance for a scheduled personal tour. The brief awkward moments of not recognizing each other was broken by a handshake, self-introduction and a few laughs. We retraced our steps through hallways and classrooms where we spent our teenage years learning from teachers, coaches and each other. From there we gathered at the Meet & Greet to chat, share food and reacquaint ourselves with the much needed name tags. Our faces and bodies may have changed, but it was clear our spirts and bonds with each other remained strong.
We were honored at the football game that night. The crowd cheered as our names were called and we walked through the oversized blow-up football helmet onto the field at half-time; it was magical! The following night was the big dinner; five hours long. I wasn't sure any of us would make it much past 9pm, but to my delight most everyone stayed until 11 pm. The chatter and laughter stayed steady throughout the night; no arguments, no overdrinking; clearly everyone was grateful to be there, just to have the opportunity to gather together once more.
Little did we know when we chose those words by Paul Simon back in 1972 how much meaning it would hold for us today. Our gathering together reflects the endurance of friendship, the passage of time and the value of it. It reconnected old friends and made new ones. As we make our way into our seventies in the next couple years, there’s no doubt in my mind that old friends will continue to share memories, laughter and maybe even a park bench.