We are taught not to covet, but sometimes the green just turns from lime to emerald.
About this time every year comes a ritual that I remain completely ignorant about, but envy nonetheless.
And, I wonder, do the folks involved fully understand how fortunate, how lucky to live in a small town?
As the school year opens each year, Homecoming rises on the horizon and with Homecoming come the class reunions.
So far in the past month, we’ve had 1958, followed by 1968 and 1978, all classes from Port St. Joe High School, all planning their reunions.
My initial reaction when 1958 arrived a month ago or so was what?
Summer isn’t over.
Every day my two-wheeled commute to work feels more and more like I’m in a convection oven.
Wasn’t graduation yesterday?
Football season underway?
Let me lay down by the shade of a tree and rest.
Oh, wait, there is no shade; recliner will have to do.
There must be an adage to fracture about when you are young time can hardly go fast enough; as you age, well, it won’t slow down one bit.
As school starts by my grand-youngins are another grade, another year older.
I hardly recognize the smiling little cherub in my wallet, now, eee gads, an adolescent.
Where once it was “Papa” with enthusiasm it has become, “hey, papa” lower-case all the way.
So, these reunions.
I responded to one submitter of reunion news how fortunate they were to live in a small town, have such fond memories of high school and class camaraderie.
Ask Kesley, my good friend sharing this page’s space, about the place on the map where I grew up, Toledo, Ohio.
“It was so big,” Kesley said when I saw him recently after travels that took him through Northwest Ohio.
Now, for many of a certain generation, Toledo is connected to a song John Denver sang about being bored in Toledo, Ohio, where not much happens at night and the sidewalks rolled up after dark.
That was quite a stigma.
Quiet, bespectacled, squeaky clean John Denver was bored?
That was not exactly a TDC promotional slogan that screamed, “Hey, let’s take our next vacation there.”
But it was a fun childhood, I wouldn’t trade it.
And it was far more crowded than childhoods in Gulf County.
Being from a large city, I attended mighty large public schools.
We lived just over two blocks from my elementary school, which I would guess, gazing back into hazy memories, had roughly twice the enrollment of Port St. Joe Elementary School.
My high school: well over 2,000 students, jutting up against 2,500.
I had more than 500, closer to 600 if I remember correctly, students in my graduating class, which is roughly the current enrollment, give or take a dozen or so, of Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School, which includes two additional grades.
So, students were a mere number in the literal sense of the word.
I can tick off some of the names of the fellas I hung around with at the time.
I had yet to discover the beauty and wonder of girls until my senior season, though I did have a “girlfriend” as a senior though it was to be an entirely chaste relationship.
This will give you some idea of how far back in time we are traveling, though I will admit I was well behind the curve, even for that time, when it came to the opposite sex.
I am fairly sure I had not even kissed a girl at that point; a fourth-grade love letter spurned created scars.
What one’s brain chooses to recall.
But, on the whole, memories are either faces or fragment of names and my memories are primarily dominated by happenings that had little to do with a classroom.
And, reunions, perish the thought.
Ten years after graduation there was a mailing that went out about trying to come together for a reunion, but by that time I was in Florida and living, in reality, an entirely new life.
Additionally, the letter’s tone was such that the writer understood they were up against long odds gathering any semblance of that high school class.
And by that time there wasn’t even a high school to remember: Thomas A. DeVilbiss, named for the guy who invented the atomizer for perfume and other things, was no longer in existence.
I don’t know if it was my graduating class, could’ve been, but I like to blame my brother’s which followed two years later.
Either way, within a decade after graduating DeVilbiss and the Tigers were rendered to the picklocks of historians.
School consolidation is not strictly a rural phenomenon.
So, at the time of that 10-year milestone, I had scant interest in a gathering of people I likely didn’t know or remember from a high school that no longer existed.
Made no sense to me.
But, time has a way of altering those realities and I have recently attempted to just look up some of those folks who made an impact during a formative time.
The search did not turn out so great, however, as the first two friends whose names I searched for had both passed away tragically young.
The search stopped.
Therefore, I say to those folks who will be gathering in October to celebrate a special time in their lives, give each an extra hug, and extra slap on the back.
Living, growing up, coming of age, in a small town carries with it a distinctly significant and impactful role in the friends and relationships made that can last a lifetime.
Some of us, on the other hand, just arrived too late.