Memories stay fresh, even after (40) years

Note:  I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that 40-years have gone by since 1974. So, I dug deep in a box (that I keep out in the garage) and dusted off an article that I wrote for the Port Huron Times Herald after I had attended my 20-year class reunion. Enjoy.

TH articleWe scattered.

After an encouraging speech—that hardly any of us listened to—and after walking up on stage to receive our diplomas from Port Huron High School, it was over. 12-years in the system—13, if you count Kindergarten—and we were being released from Neverland to face our destinies. We hugged. We laughed. We cried.

Many of our paths crossed during the summer; Port Huron just isn’t that big. Friday night cruising through town, Power’s Hamburgers, Lakeside Beach…”Hey, this isn’t any different than last summer.” But time is silent; it sneaks up on you and leaps past when you’re not looking.

With each passing year, the number of faces I recognized from high school became fewer. A tightly knit clan of classmates began to congregate every Friday at the Zebra Bar. We clung to each other not wanting to let go, but knowing deep down that the odds were against us. Some of us were now students at St. Clair County Community College and we knew we were short timers in Port Huron; just waiting for our exit ramp up ahead. Others had already begun their careers down the highway of life and a few were driving down roads with warning signs that say “Dead End” and “Bridge Out.”

We got married. We stayed single. We had kids. We had none. We moved away. We stayed in Port Huron. Mortgages. Car payments. Sofas. Tuition. Vacations. Disposable diapers. Life insurance. Maytags. Time had passed by again. We had become grownups.

And, then the invitation arrived for the 20-year reunion for the Class of 1974. Who would show up? What would they look like? Were they still my friends? Of course they were, but some of them I hadn’t seen in 10, 15, hell…since graduation. What happened? Was it really possible? I mean 20-years had gone by. Twenty. Years.

I hesitated as my wife, Julie (also a Class of 1974 alumni,) and I walked up to the entrance of George’s Upper Deck Bar. It wasn’t too late to turn around and go back. After all, this was just the pre-reunion party the night before. This was optional. Maybe we could just take a peek and see who was here without committing to going inside.

“Bluegene!” someone shouts.

It was a name I hadn’t been called in decades. Immediately, I was swept into the midst of old friends. As if by magic we had traveled back in time, but we all knew that the dream was just on loan. We went back not just 20-years, but 33-years, for these were the kids I had gone to elementary and intermediate school with as well: Jim, Linda, Mitch, Shelly, Oscar, Peter, Greg, Randy, Jane, Laurie, Chris, Dan, Carl, Paul, Gary, and Phil. These were my childhood friends and they were all here. Photographs were pulled out and passed around. Peter, a friend from Kindergarten days grabbed my arm.

“Remember the time we won the plastic hockey tournament?” He asked.

“Yeah, I do,” I replied.

“We got our pictures in the paper for being the hockey champions and we won the Christmas and Easter door-decorating contests too. Remember Mrs. Monk? She always said, ‘I’ll shake the stew out of you,'” Peter continued.

I wouldn’t have remembered that on my own, but the memory was there, just waiting to be picked up and held for a while. It was a night of revisiting long-lost memories and filling in the blanks.

The next night at the Thomas Edison Inn, I saw even more faces from the past. Everyone was eager to talk. The walls were gone. Old flames talked to one another with a flicker of “what if…?” Trailing spouses were pulled into inner circles of conversations. Cameras flashed continuously. And when we danced, it was lunch hour at Washington Intermediate once more. We showed our silly sides in the line dances. One-by-one, we soloed down the chute to the hoots and jeers of our classmates.

And then people began to get their coats. Please don’t leave; not yet.

Silently, persuasively, time was passing by again. The evening was, all too quickly, coming to an end, but many of us refused to let it win. Not tonight anyway. We pushed back on the hands of the clock. Some of us went to a bonfire beach party at Lighthouse Park and then we hopped on a classmate’s boat docked at the marina. That night, we were still in Neverland. We didn’t want to grow up and we refused to give up without a fight. Still, subtly, the sky began to lighten and the birds began to sing their morning serenade. An hour later, the first rays of dawn peeked over the horizon.

We were the same and we were different in a weird sort of way. There were winners, but no real losers, (although a few of us had crashed and burned.) They say that the most important things are said last—as the the door is closing—and I believe it to be true.

“Good-bye, my friends. I miss you.”

We hugged. We laughed. We cried. And, then we scattered, again.


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