By Don Radebaugh — It’s too bad we couldn’t have the high school experience later in life…say in our 40s or 50s, when we could appreciate it all the more. By then, we’re past most of our insecurities and we have grown to be comfortable in our own skin. We don’t even try to fit in anymore because we don’t care about what he or she thinks about us…we’re past all that nonsense. We are who we are, and we’re okay with it.
As the preamble to my 40th high school reunion, we were given the opportunity to walk the halls of my alma mater, Whitmer High School….to reminisce, recollect and reflect. Possibly, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal, but I hadn’t been back inside the school since 1977, the day I walked out. It’s the same old story…back then I couldn’t wait to get out. Now, all these years later, I couldn’t wait to get back in. Kind of like wanting to leave the small town you grew up in for greater opportunities out in the wide open world…before you come full circle and long to be back in that same charming small town.
At any rate, I cruised the hallways with my classmates. We laughed and remembered specific moments in time that happened right here, or right over there. I knew right where my old locker was, and went straight to it. Fascinating memories came crashing down, all around…it was moving. For two hours, we meandered up and down the halls sharing hysterical memories of those “years gone by.” … looked into the classrooms where we had history, science and all the rest…the cafeteria, the courtyards, the field house, the theater…powerful moments for me. It had been 40 years. How can something that seems like yesterday, feel so far away?
Things like this tend to affect me in ways I can’t really explain. For lack of better words, going back tears me up inside. I wanted to cruise those halls forever, but it was soon time to go…except that I couldn’t…I wasn’t ready. When we all walked out the doors together, without saying a word, I turned around and marched right back in. Having already enjoyed the experience with my mates, I needed some of my own time, alone with my thoughts to try and make sense of what happened here so many years ago. What happened to all those people I knew back then? What became of them? I knew some of the answers, but with a big class pushing a thousand, there were more questions than answers.
As exciting as it was to walk the old halls, there was pain associated with it too. I guess if you don’t want the pain, then don’t go down memory lane…but it lures me in every time. During my time in that school, I could remember and recollect all I wanted, but as much as I tried, I couldn’t recreate it, and believe me, I tried. But it was gone…all those people, all those moments in time. Why do we do that? Why do we look back on things and wish we could return? Is it because we don’t like what we see ahead?
Those are hard questions. If we could only do a better job of taking in the moments as they happen, maybe we wouldn’t have to return so much for the recreation. I guess that’s another bonus to the aging process…we become much more in tune with the moments, seizing them…appreciating them, even the smallest of things and moments.
It was the same way when my children graduated. It would be the very last time these kids and parents would be together under the same roof again. As soon as it’s done…poof…everyone’s gone…on their way to God knows where. Those things hit me hard…I don’t know why, but it can take me days before I’m feeling close to normal again. I wish so badly that I could put my daughters on my lap again and read to them, but I can’t…they’re grown up and on their way. That’s hard.
It’s not that I live and breathe Whitmer Panther Pride, but the older I get, the more the memories of my past gather around me, consume me. I don’t care much if the old team wins or loses, but I do care about all those people who shared the same roof with me during those precious formative high school years. And it’s a bit embarrassing, but, having had the recent experience, I find myself in a bit of a funk. I’ve been here before. It’ll take some time, and I know I’ll climb out from the melancholy in a few days and march on like we all do. I used to hear my parents say how fast life goes…now I’m saying it to my kids…now that I’m on this end of it, all in the blink of an eye. Such a fun day, yet emotional, even for this ole codger. It was so nice to see classmates. I promise I treasured every moment with each and every one of you…and I wish for you all good health and more great journeys ahead. And please consider coming back for the 45th and the 50th and the…
From the alma mater… “Ever are her students true.” #PantherPride
Special thanks to reunion organizer Lisa Connin and her helpers. I know Lisa worked extremely hard to make this special night all come together. The memorials for our classmates who have passed, the slideshows of classmates from days gone by, the company, the dinner, the band…it was all so wonderful, meaningful and fun. And bringing into the ballroom the Whitmer Marching Band to play our fight song and alma mater was off the charts amazing. Thank you so much for all your hard work…I can assure you, it was worth it.Google+