This is what 1975 looks like today. Pretty damn good, I think.
Thanks to the patience and perseverance of a few dedicated folks, the Coffee County Central High School (Manchester, Tennessee) class of ’75 gathers for an official reunion weekend every five years. Saturday night we gathered at the fanciest place in town to eat, to spill my glass of red wine all over my purse to drink, to catch up and to lose at to play charades. We had a blast — as long as we studiously ignored the fact that we all are way older now than our own parents were when we graduated. That’s a little scary. And it made me remember that the whole time we were going through school, people kept telling us that we were the future of our country and America’s success and welfare were up to us. I’ll just let that thought sit there for contemplation.
But here are some other, more cheerful thoughts:
BFF Debbie Stepp Ball was my date since husband John Lewis Pitt
s, sports editor at the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, had this little thing called THE FIRST COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKEND going on. As usual, Debbie Stepp and I both wore pretty much the same thing, both worried about our shoes and both could barely stay awake past 9 p.m. Because that’s how we roll. Also please ignore the senior picture on my name tag. I have no knowledge of who that person is. None at all. Nope, it’s not me. Debbie Stepp, also as usual, got tons of compliments and people said things to her such as “Oh, Debbie, you haven’t aged a bit!” People said things to me such as “Uh, hello? Were you in my Spanish class?” But it is true that she has not aged a bit and is a beautiful person inside and out and I’m just glad she still lets me hang out with her.
The much-anticipated charades team made up of the class Cathys/Kathys — we think there were eight of us at one time — lost because WE FOLLOWED THE RULES and didn’t talk. The Cathys/Kathys ALWAYS follow the rules. It’s what makes us who we are. Fingers pointing at you, team of Gordon Smith. Fingers pointing at you.
The generation that graduated in 1975 got kind of stuck, history-wise. We missed out on the Beatles, the Sixties and Elvis. In the months before
we graduated, Watergate conspirators were convicted and the Vietnam War ended. Our male teachers were a mix of World War II veterans and young guys with bell-bottom pants and hair touching their collars. Our female teachers were a mix of ruler-slapping take-no-prisoners ladies who’d been teaching for about a hundred years and young women trying out this new idea that they could have careers AND have families at the same time. Is it any wonder we were confused? Is it any wonder that when the photographer at the reunion told us we could do anything we wanted for a “silly” picture, we couldn’t handle it? We panicked. We froze. This picture is as silly and free as we could get. But it’s not our fault. We were raised to do what we’re told. We need rules and regulations! Parameters and limitations! It’s how we do our best work.
And one final thought — these folks are all fun and friendly and delightful to talk to. Why didn’t I know that 40 years ago? Why was I so insecure that I didn’t venture beyond my own circle of friends? Wish I’d embraced all the quirks and differences and strengths that made us our wonderful different selves. But maybe that’s what reunions are for … that, and getting to hear your mother tell you, as you head out the door, “You’ll knock all those boys off their feet!” (my mom) and “Don’t drink and drive!” (Debbie’s mom). So glad some things never change.
I know I don’t look like it now — sitting here on the couch in my PJs at 7:30 p.m. with a glass of wine in my hand and basketball on TV — but back only a few years ago I was a hard-working & dedicated how-many-bottles-of-water-do-we-need-for-the-concession-stand type of Band Parent. I mean, I was fierce. I cleaned & cooked & chaperoned. I rode buses and made calls and sewed hems and tracked down lost gloves and errant plumes. Sound familiar? You, too? After our final band-geek-chick left the nest, it took forever to retrain myself — I didn’t have to hang around the school cafeteria scooping out ice anymore or keep handy at all times a bag of emergency bobby pins, safety pins, hairbobs, HotHands and Kleenex. So I was sort of surprised when I went to a recent reception for our retiring high-school director and realized that the band had carried on without me. And not only carried on but managed to pull off a great full-scale party without my help. Amazing. And gratifying. Because it’s somebody else’s turn now. We Old Band Parents have earned our retirement. After all, we’ve got wine to drink and basketball to watch. But I’m sharing the cute & clever ideas the New Band Parents came up with for this reception — we OBPs are proud of you, NBPs. Good job. Carry on.
Random thoughts, as a former co-worker used to say, from a cluttered mind:
1) I have fearless and perhaps slightly insane friends, such as my Alabama friend who did not let a little thing like a hurricane stop her from driving up to Baltimore and helping her daughter and future son-in-law move there from Atlanta. “There sure are a lot of cars driving the opposite way,” she said from the road on Friday night.
2) I have fearless and determined children, such as Younger Daughter, who is not letting university dysfunction and red-tape deter her from taking the classes she wants to take — and who, in the process, gained some appreciation for parental efforts. “When I was in school, I just showed up to class and didn’t realize all it took to get there,” she said.
3) I have fearless and smart grandchildren, such as 3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable (also currently my only grandchild) who put up with a noisy family party just long enough to be polite and then grabbed his aunt’s hand for a quick getaway, knowing she was as ready to slip outside as he was. The Captain also was apprehensive about a tree-cutting project that involved a loud chainsaw and a great deal of shouting but did not want to miss out on the action — he knew he could hang with his daddy and be assured of staying safe and secure.
4) I have fearless yet generous parents, who said, “Sure. Of course. How can we help?” when I volunteered their nursery/tree farm for a gathering of my high-school class. Couldn’t have done it without them.
5) I have fearless and fun classmates, who don’t worry about wrinkles and bad knees and expanding waistlines but simply want to reconnect and share. And eat wonderfully yummy food and drink local hometown wine.
With the ceremonies out of the way in a couple hours, tonight we’ll be watching the inauguration balls and catching glimpses of Obama style, the formal version. The gold coat and dress Michelle Obama is wearing today is gorgeous and I can’t wait to see her gown. But at least here in the South, shopping for spring prom dresses as already started as moms and daughters hit the stores on these cold and dreary winter days — sharing dressing-room space with June brides and bridesmaids. With two dress-up-loving daughters, I’ve had many seasons of formal shopping — some more successful than other. My advice? Wear comfortable clothes, have water and aspirin with you and bring plenty of Kleenex. If this store window in downtown Florence, Alabama, in any indication, simple and elegant gowns in jewel tones are going to be popular this year — I love how the colors glowed in the night lighting. It’ll be interesting to see if any inaugural trends show up at prom. Stay tuned!