A lot of people think reunions are lame, and it’s silly to get together with people whom you haven’t seen in so many years.
Well, I think they are just wrong.
It’s nice to reconnect with your formative years and catch up with old friends.
Back when I was in high school, I wasn’t a member of any certain “group” of kids. Oh, we had the various social clutches you’d find in any school…but in our class, I think the lines of delineation seemed to be a bit more blurred than in other schools.
We all got along, and we all sort of merged into one big old group of “Bearcats.”
Maybe it was a kinder, gentler time back then, or maybe we were just mature for our age. I don’t think so though.
I think we were all just a group of kids who were dealing with a rapidly changing world. A president was almost impeached but resigned instead. Another president pardoned him, and even though it was the year before the fall of Saigon during the Viet Nam War, the boys in our class didn’t know that, and after graduation, even though the draft had ended, there was no guarantee it wouldn’t reemerge. Those boys were no doubt tormented about a possible scary future of ending up in enemy jungles.
Protests about the war were going on throughout the nation, while the strict racial divide of the ’50s and ’60s was taking its first feeble steps towards healing. Marijuana had begun to replace Boone’s Farm Wine or our daddies’ bourbon, and smoking cigarettes was far more in vogue then than it is now.
And there we were…a bunch of youngsters about to graduate into the big wide world.
We were from “West (by God) Columbia,” and since we lived across the Congaree River from “the city,” we were often referred to by the “city dwellers” as the “river rats.”
And we were proud of it.
On that hot August Saturday night, we still were.
Sure, there was some surreptitious glancing at name tags and some re-introductions when memories failed us. But the people we were back then were still there in that room Saturday night…a little older, a little wiser, and maybe a little grayer and a little heavier, but in each of us, you saw that same brighteyed spirit and pride and most of all, the friendships and memories.
Under the umbrella of “Bearcats,” we have managed to stay in touch with most of our classmates, and I’m proud to say we’ve been there for each other through the good times such as weddings and births of children and now grandchildren, and we’ve been there for the heartbreak when we must attend the funerals of fallen classmates or members of their families.
We honored our departed with a memorial table, and at some point during the evening, I think every single person stopped by it to remember, recall a story, and sometimes, even shed a tear or share a poignant embrace.
After all, we are a group of people who went through puberty and pimples together, first crushes and broken hearts, and of course, all the angst of high school where you sometimes get your first and occasionally harsh lessons about your place in the food chain.
We formed friendships that have lived on through four decades and from all four corners of the world.
And the best part is, we still care enough to get together to keep these friendships going. Whether through social media or emails or telephones, we’ve managed to keep the threads of our youth moving through the tapestries of our grownup lives.
We are the seniors of ’74, and we (can still) make them listen to the Bearcat ROAR!
I’m just saying...