Recently, a friend ran into an old classmate, who said she remembered me from school. I looked her up on Facebook, and although the recent profile shot rang a bell, I couldn’t place her. That sent me back to a much earlier facebook, the 1987 FHS (Fairport, NY) Hourglass.
I remember a lot about high school, people and episodes, but I haven’t revisited the yearbook much. The ’87 edition is the only one I purchased; back then I was eager to be done with school and leave town, to hell with sentimentality. I hadn’t ordered one in advance, then impulsively bought my copy when I heard an announcement that only ten were left (I think I borrowed the money.)
My teenaged daughter Sarah watched me flip through it. “Wow, your friends wrote a LOT in your yearbook.” She’s right – the pages are packed with minute, but legible, handwriting. Most entries are several paragraphs, including full names, addresses and phone numbers. Many close their encomiums with an unabashed “Love…” I read a few excerpts to Sarah:
“If you don’t mind me being nostalgic for a moment – remember when you & Tor sat behind me & Steve in biology in 10th grade? We had so much fun seeing you guys walking up the hill [behind school] every day – I still don’t know how you passed! I’ll miss saying the pledge next to you every day next fall, your humor really made my day.”
“…I really enjoy your company. We had a few nice intellectual discussions, didn’t we? (Actually, there’s no question about that.)”
“I have always found your honesty and concern for others refreshing…You have taught me much relating to life and myself simply by your actions/interactions; thank you!”
“You have a truly lovely voice. Good luck in Boston.”
(News to me – I don’t remember saying I was going to Boston, although that’s where Sarah is headed in the fall, 31 years later.)
Sarah said it seemed like we were already adults then, not teens. For as much as I remember about the final weeks of senior year, I’d forgotten the sobriety we adopted, facing the future. Several entries mentioned that I wouldn’t be attending college, how scary that must be for me, and don’t forget to reach out if I needed anything (I didn’t reach out; I should have.)
“Thanks for all the advice, I intend to take it. Here’s to more lunches in the park.”
“You’re a great friend. I’ll never forget the day you told Cara and I what guys talk about. I’ve never seen you more embarrassed.”
We had wonderful teachers. Ms. Nichols, Physics, had us tape pieces of paper to our backs, then walk around the room and write complimentary observations on each other. Those papers were taped in my locker for the rest of the year. Mr. Baynes, English, devoted three classes to screening It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), which I’ve watched almost every year since. Its moral, which we clearly took to heart: “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends.”
“…you give a lot of enjoyment to so many people.”
“You are kinda smart, but a good person…You always have a beautiful smile on your face.”
“Thanks for all the help in Sociology the times you were actually there!”
Mr. Nowak taught Sociology with the single goal of imparting empathy. Our final exam was to watch The Breakfast Club (1985) and write an essay about what it meant. Jim Nowak died in 2011, while in Kenya building schools and a health clinic.
“Someday, we’ll be making movies & we’ll be sooo rich. Whichever one breaks into the business hires the other, otay? Otay. Live long & prosper.”
Dave and I directed the musical You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown together, when we were in 8th grade. Repeating that, WHEN WE WERE IN 8th GRADE. (What was anyone thinking? Were no adults paying attention?) In that production, Dave also played the funniest Snoopy I’ll ever see. We didn’t get to make movies together, he didn’t live nearly long enough; the best I could do was dedicate the second musical I directed, in 2014, to his memory.
“…you have been a super friend to me. Thanks for all your help, support and fun. Thanks for helping with [the woman the signer would eventually marry].”
“Think you’ve got enough people signing this? You can’t answer that.”
And so on. Reading all of these, I’m touched by the generosity of my friends. If this wasn’t my yearbook, I’d want to know the person whose yearbook it was – that person must be OK, based on the dedications therein. This, coming from someone who’s struggled mightily with self-image and depression over the past 30 years (like so many others, certainly).
Thank you, my friends and my teachers. I’m doing great; I hope you are, too.