This June I will be attending my 50th high school reunion. So, how do I feel about that? In some respects, it is a bit like returning to the scene of the crime to face a jury of your peers. High school is, after all, the ultimate youthful indiscretion, and a reunion brings together in one room the only people on the planet who collectively can piece together every one of those false steps (and giant leaps) we call growing up. Well, what could be better than that?
I don't actually remember a whole lot about high school. Unlike my son, who can recall details from third grade, I can only summon up vague
images of long walls of lockers flanking linoleum-floored hallways, cramped
wooden desks, the sharp smell of dried, sweat-stiffened socks and T-shirts in Evie Dorr's gym class, and the formaldehyde in Mr. Thompson's biology class, where man and frog met in equally unpleasant circumstances.
If you look at our yearbook, you will find me listed as "Most Likely to
Succeed." Might as well just put a big ol' GEEK stamp right across my
face. The earnest eyes peering out from behind heavy black-framed eyeglasses pretty much seal the deal. As for the rest of my fellow classmates, I just have this general sense of everyone being well, okay. I'm sure there was ugliness.
There always is. But mostly we were just normal kids. A lot of us had been together since kindergarten. We grew up together, creating a closeness that brings with it all the drama that you find in any family of teenagers.
Some of the teachers stand out in my mind. I certainly remember the cute French teacher who moved to Cohasset from California and once let it drop she would swim nude in her pool ... Mother of God! Mr. Peters was kind of cool, with a big city way about him. Mr. Guiliano, as good a teacher as any I ever had, made math almost interesting, if not exactly fun. Mrs. Phipps, the music teacher, was a true original, the master of the politically incorrect aphorism. The later passions in my life -- reading, science, and history -- those were first ignited in high school, even though the flame may have almost dimmed completely as I struggled to get through Mr. Franey's Physics class.
The one thing that really jumps out at me is how lucky we were to grow up in a small town that had big ideas about education. Our high school was one of the best in the area, a status that was achieved only through the commitment of the townspeople to giving their kids the best education possible. Sure the town had a lot of rich people, but the cost was borne willingly by rich and poor alike. We owe them all an enormous debt of gratitude. We were blessed with the opportunity to have a good start in life if we chose to take advantage of it. Most of us did.
A lot happened to me since then -- college, the Army, marriage, kids, a career, Medicare -- each milestone pushing high school further down the life list of significance. But, still, it's high school we're talking about. No matter who we are today, high school is where it all began. For me, this reunion will be more than a chance to compare notes with old classmates. It will be a time to give silent thanks to an entire town that chose to make educating it's kids Job One. That's the real story here.