Words from a fellow Nebraska 1969 reunioner. Shelley sent me this. It is written by a Kearney High Class of 1969er who now lives in Indiana. She says she thinks it was published in the “New Albany Tribune” in Indiana.
HIGH SCHOOL REUNION ’69 by Doug Olson
I took a journey back in space and time last week, logging more than 1,800 miles in a rented Dodge to attend my fortieth class reunion in Kearney, Nebraska, a surprisingly robust town of 30,000 where I grew up in the fifties and sixties. Some came much further than I did, in one case, Washington state and in another, Massachusetts.
But come we did. The ninety-five or so of us that attended this once-a-decade event almost universally agreed that we were almost pulled back to our hometown by some primal, mysterious inner magnet. In a small sense, we were like the Jews of the diaspora drawn back to Israel after WWII. The old ties beckoned; we answered the call. For me, it was beyond logic, intellect and reason; I just knew I was supposed to be there and adjusted my schedule accordingly. I had it easy – four pleasant days of travel along well-maintained interstates. A few of my fellow pilgrims dodged tornadoes on the road back; one found herself hiding in a farmhouse cellar for a time with complete strangers, then continuing on, the inner magnet’s draw irresistible.
I wonder . . . why are the bonds between us still so strong after 40 long years? I believe it has to do with the power of a shared block of experiences, experiences that were and are meaningful and that produced a communal memory base. Though we have all moved on and added individualized 2nd and 3rd stories to our ‘life houses’, a group of us – in this particular case, the 1969 class of Kearney High School – has a common foundation. For thirteen years or so, as we moved from kindergarten to graduation night, we largely shared the same teachers, coaches, principals, even the same boy and girlfriends. We won and lost football and basketball games together (in our case, mostly lost!) agonized together over the same algebra and chemistry tests, fell asleep together under the same dull teachers, and even discovered hidden talents together when certain special teachers demanded and got more out of us than we knew we had. (Think Roberta McKenzie here.)
And we shared so many “firsts” together, back when life seemed to be a never-ending merry-go-round of new experiences. Of course, I sought out the girl I had shared my first uncertain but hugely passionate kiss with at a 7th grade party, and was humbled when she admitted she didn’t remember the event; I must have been less than impressive that long-ago night.
I found and re-united with the person I had gone hunting with for the very first time without a father along, and the first girl I truly gave my heart to. We were fellow travelers on the precarious journey from childhood to adolescence to tentative adulthood, and for three days in June, we relived those exciting years in our mind’s eyes. Throughout the “feel-good vibes” were practically oozing from the floorboards, at least for me. Geo-politicians, maybe the Arabs and Jews, should study this gathering as a model for achieving lasting world peace. Obamanites and Nobomanites blended seamlessly at the buffet table and bonfire; “no politics allowed here” seemed to be the unwritten but iron rule. Likewise with dogmatic religiosity; the “no preaching until 2:00 a.m.” stricture prevailed, and everybody had left by 1:00 a.m.
Oh yes, Rodney King would have been proud of us! If a classmate with a large red dot on his forehead had showed up, I doubt anybody would have commented on it. I’ll go you one further; if a former classmate had shown up with a large red eye in the middle of his forehead, we would have likely ignored it and just tried to figure out what classes we’d had with him, and had life treated him well, and did he have a family, etc. We’d waited ten years for these three days; we weren’t going to screw it up!
Not that spirituality-based conversations were taboo . . . far from it. We found like-minded souls and talked long and earnestly (I live for these interactions) about any cosmic breadcrumbs we had gleaned on life’s pathways. We admitted to false starts, to falls from grace, to infatuations with cults, pseudo religions and Messiah wannabees. We are after all, the ‘Woodstock Nation‘ generation, and we fell for almost everything back in those crazy years as our ships were tossed about in the tempest that was the late sixties. An unfortunate few among us have been fatalities over the years, and those we remembered and mourned communally, as tribes have always done. All in all, it made for some great conversations, talk many of us are continuing via the school’s website chat room.
And we are a tribe, you know, a familial band of brothers and sisters with a common ancestry, a shared memory stockpile and a bond of affection between us that transcends years and miles. Until the next clan gathering, then, stay well, love much and say often – “Class of ’69, you rock”!