The most momentous event of a teenager’s life is the day of high school graduation. Senior Prom and Homecoming Weekend are second and third.
Before graduation class rings are distributed. Then the yearbook comes.
Everyone, even those students whom you do not know, wants you to write something – a something that will have meaning down the road to tomorrow. So we toss something on the page and hand it back to the smiling person.
Some of the written stuff is very corny. Some of it is very funny, and some of it is serious – with sincerity that at 18 or 19 we do not fully grasp.
We promise that we will keep in touch and see everyone at reunion. However, as we disperse across the world, the days and months turn into a year. We may make it back, but then again, there’s always next year. It seems that life with its various oddities and vicissitudes interfere with our promises and plans.
The years turn into decades. When we do venture back, it is usually to take care of a parent’s affairs or their transfer from independence to assisted living. A sibling’s wedding or sometimes, birth, will bring us back. Of course, death in the family brings us back. At those times one does not think of high school or reunions. One must get done with the present intrusion into our busy lives so that we can return to our lives plagued with unceasing activity.
If someone had told us on graduation day that we were embarking on a voyage of no return and complexity, we would have laughed – the laugh of innocence like the carefree toss of a football after the game, or running full speed into the volleyball net, or perhaps, an unexpected kiss, a moment captured in time.
Complexity was a memory from sophomore biology or perhaps, a spider web in the corner of the bedroom if mother had forgotten the broom for some unknown reason. Complex structure had nothing to do with us on that day of days.
One day we sit down and pull out the senior annual and glance at the comments written by people that we have not seen in twenty, thirty or forty years- perhaps longer.
Ones that tend to stick with you – “I hope we can be friends forever”. At the time we did not know that forever is limited by our short journey on this planet. At graduation there were no limits to our horizon.
So, we decide to go back to visit the old school. Once we are there, then we discover that many of those young souls who wrote in our yearbooks are no longer. They have faded from the earth. The realization strikes us like an ancient gauntlet -death seems to be a common element as we age.
We visit the city cemetery on the hill overlooking the city. Before us stretch the endless cold stones with bits of information: birth and death. Sometimes, the words-“Beloved wife and mother”; “Beloved husband and father”; a name of a military unit; then there are those with a picture incased into the stone- a moment of life frozen in time of what was and can never be again.
The cemetery has strangers, family, friends, and rivals. These are the rivals who got the girl or guy; got the part in the junior play; got a better SAT and by default got an Ivy League school while we sojourned at a state college or that red convertible mustang which we so wanted.
Then we hear the tragic stories of their deaths – killed in action in some foreign local which means little to the listener; cancer; heart attack; killed by a drunk driver; natural disaster; suicide. Petty teenage rivalries don’t seem so important as we stand before their grave and remember them.
Time has brought us full circle. This is the circle which we know very well, but which we were never prepared to live on graduation day.
High School- an odyssey of remembrances. For when we cease to remember those of the past, their immortality slips away in the streams of time.
The most tragic event of a life is to be forgotten by all.
As one ages, one must wonder-
Will someone remember me after I have left this existence? We all hope for this.
Is there more to existence after we cease on this earth? Many of us hope for that reality.
We have so many questions of age as we look back to the time of innocence and endless possibilities on that day of High School graduation.
G. D. Williams © 2010