The Pages of Our Lives
(Sap Alert: This past weekend marked the 50th anniversary of the graduation from high school of the class of 1964 from West Orange (New Jersey) Mountain High. That's what this column will be about. If you are looking for an angry screed, hit the key now and tune in later in the week when I'm cranky again.)
The thing about fifty years isn't that it goes by so quickly when you're looking backwards, and seems so impossibly far away when you're looking ahead. That's true, but it's not what is most important.
What I got to thinking about this past weekend -- the weekend of the inaccurately named "50th Reunion" of my high school graduating class -- was about the inexorability of the whole thing. (The inaccuracy occurs because we have not had 50 reunions, it is the reunion marking the 50th anniversary of our graduation.)
From the moment of our birth, one page comes off the calendar of our lives every 24 hours (or, to keep the accuracy thing going, 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.1 seconds).
Good times, bad times, smooth or rough, happy or sad: One day, one page.
There are pages we would like to rip off, tear into shreds, throw away from our lifetime calendars in about 12 hours, and forget about. Others, we would like to savor and keep for weeks or months, and remember forever.
Both are possible, but the will each use up the same exact 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.1 seconds. Not more. Not less.
Stipulating that graduation day for the West Orange Mountain class of 1964 was on the Summer Solstice of that year, June 21; 18,262 pages have fallen from the life calendars of every one of the living 236 graduates. No more. No less.
Gathering about half of them in the same place at the same time allowed us to share the vast variety of careers that a group of middle class kids from Northern New Jersey have been allowed to pursue during America's post World War II go-go decades.
At this point in their lives many of my classmates have retired and, being from New Jersey, a significant number of them have relocated to Florida. But there was a California contingent, a classmate that came from Finland and one from Israel. And one, of course, from Alexandria, Virginia.
The last reunion I went to was our 42nd. At the time I wondered (in a reply-all email) why 42nd? "Why not 41st or 43rd," I wrote. "Those are prime numbers. That's at least a little amusing. What's funny about 42?"
One of my mates replied-all to my query with this: "Because we're all turning sixty, you moron."
I would have gotten to that if I'd thought about it long enough.
Now, most of the class is 68 with a few of the "children" including me, still 67.
When we were 60, we all looked like slightly older versions of what we looked like when we were 17 and 18. For the most part we could look at one another and remember in a glance who was who.
But, the pages of the calendar have taken their toll on most of us physically over the past eight years. Without name tags complete with senior yearbook photos attached, it would have been very difficult to answer the question: "Do you remember who I am?"
Once I looked at the name and photo, each 68-year-old face resolved itself into the 18-year-old person I remembered from high school.
I also wondered what was going on fifty years before we graduated, It was on June 28, 1914 (the 100th anniversary will be next Saturday) when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated sparking the Great War; a war the U.S. would not enter for nearly three more years. From July on, the rest of the year is largely taken up by the news of European nations choosing up sides.
Except for July 11, 1914 when Babe Ruth made his major league debut with the Boston Red Sox.
At our 50th reunion, the old flirtations became new flirtations between slightly older men and women. The high school feuds have been either resolved, forgotten, or forgiven. The talk had moved from who is secretly dating whom, to what type of hearing aids we favored and what brand of statin we are taking.
The pages of our calendars will continue, God willing, to drop away. Some day each of us will reach the cardboard at the back, and we'll say goodbye.
But for this weekend, at least, a group of senior citizens were young high school graduates again and got to share their 18+ thousand calendar pages with one another leaving with a new little twinkle in our collective reading-glasses-needed eyes, the better for having reconnected, and having relived, the days that have gone by oh so quickly.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A Mullfoto of me in my cap and gown on graduation day.