Amid all the fun and conversation, amid the satisfaction of discover and location, other voices spoke out over the weekend that made me pause and think back to our high school experiences and whether or not our nostalgia has not hidden some uglier truths.
I have often made mention that I know that there are classmates who do not share our perspective on school, but I was never made more aware than when I called someone who shall remain nameless. Her first reaction was one of suspicion. She asked me how I had come to find her phone number. I replied through an Internet people search engine. She went on to relate how her high school experience was horribly different. Instead of it being one of the best times of her life, she described it as years of humiliation during which emotional and intellectual bullying were the norm and she always felt as though she could expect a new round of victimization at any time from people whose egos were far bigger than their character. So I should keep what she called "your friggin' high school" so she could continue to try to forget it forever". Wow. I was so shocked I didn't even get a chance to think to ask her if she felt I played a role in any of this. I felt so badly I was prepared to apologize for behavior I never engaged in, since I had little if any contact with her in school. By the time these thoughts were even formed in my head, and before I could utter them, I was already listening to dead air. I know that bullying in many ways and forms has become an everyday presence in today's schools, but it never occurred to me that I could have looked back to my own high school to find it. Was I so blind as not to see it? It was the kind of reminder I got from Al Piaget in Anthony Wayne after I delivered a research paper about segregation and civil rights in the Deep South. His comment on the margin was "you don't have to go any further than South Jersey migrant workers to find the same thing". Right in your own back yard.
After that, it was certainly much easier to accept that several other classmates decided not to be listed fully in the directory, one because he didn't actually graduate with us but from another school, from where his fond memories arose; one because he got kicked out before graduation; and one simply because he felt no connection to anyone in school. I simply wished them well and congratulated them for finding their place in the world.
Finally, two other items: The first, a request from Nancy LaRue's son, who was only 10 months old when she passed in Beatrice Nebraska in 1969, that anyone who was close to Nancy in school let him know their impressions of her. He never had the chance to get to know her and hoped her classmates might let him know what kind of person she was. You can post to Facebook or let me know by email so I can forward your thoughts along. I also posted this request to Facebook and thanks to those who have already posted comments.
Second, also posted on Facebook and the reunion site, please note the passing of Laura Casadevall Robinson on August 31, 2011 after a 3-1/2 year fight with cancer. A USAF Vietnam veteran, Laura will be buried this afternoon in Jacksonville National Cemetery with full military honors and will be listed as such in the directory memorial section.