It was 60 years ago that my high school classmates and I put on caps and gowns and swayed down a makeshift aisle in the big gymnasium to the notes of “Pomp and Circumstance.” The fun and games — a reunion to mark this important milestone for the class of ‘53 — are set for next month, and I’m getting ready for them.
Oh, no, not by going on a diet. That ritual, thank goodness, is no longer mandatory. It was for the reunions of our middle years — our 30th, 40th and 50th-year gatherings — that some of us strained to be more presentable and, not being a group given much to cosmetic work, opted to attempt to trim the waistlines.
On our 10th anniversary, I’m sure all of us looked pretty much the way we had when the doors of Hattiesburg High School closed behind us for the last time. Ditto for the 20th — aging a bit but lookin’ gooood. The cheerleaders were still perky, the football players still swaggered, the drum major and members of the band pranced to a beat they could still hear. The beauties, God bless them, were still beautiful.
Now we are 78 — give or take a year in some cases — and some are more nimble and thinner than others, some have more hair and fewer wrinkles; you get the picture. Dentures and hearing aids are worn by several; many have survived serious illnesses and show the wear and tear, but all will be happy to be headed to another reunion and thankful still to be on Earth to look forward to it.
Too many of us will not be there, so who are we to fret over a few extra pounds and droopy lines in our faces? This will be a meeting of hearts and minds, a celebration of the golden era that was high school, no matter how little we valued it then. Our physical, social and intellectual differences no longer matter.
Those present will include some of the daring ones who set off the stink bomb in the boys’ restroom, filling the halls with smoke and bringing out the fire department. There will be one respectable codger who came very close to juvenile court — he cut down a tree that toppled into a power line and shut off the juice to a nearby drive-in theater. There will be those destined for the ministry, who held prayer meetings in school at noon, back in the day when nobody took offense.
There will also be those who were headed to college and those who were headed to work. Those who were invited to join certain clubs and those who weren’t. Those who cut their last classes to go to the movies and those who didn’t. Girls who were invited to the prom and girls who weren’t.
None of it really matters any more. Since our days at HHS we’ve had triumphs and tragedies, disappointments and achievements dizzying in their influence on our lives. We’ve made families and stood by in support as another generation has gone traipsing through the hallowed halls of high school.
I know I’ve told you the story about the women classmates who went to the same restaurant together on the decade anniversaries of their graduation. On the 10th year they chose the spot because it was cheap, on the 20th because drinks were two-for-one, on the 30th because the bartenders were cute, on the 40th because the food was good, on the 50th because it had a good wine list — and on the 60th because they didn’t remember ever having been there before.
The class of ‘53 had its rivalries, jealousies and, possibly, clashes. We just don’t remember them anymore.